Masters of high-concept musical japery, Matmos are known for walking the daring line between quasi-performance art hijinks and screwball musique concrète tactics. Past projects have included sampling of real-world sounds (crayfish nerve tissue, rhinoplasty) and candid audio portraits of historical figures (THE ROSE HAS TEETH IN THE MOUTH OF THE BEAST). Never ones to leave speculative sonic territory unmined, on their album SUPREME BALLOON, the duo have imposed a daring conceptual limitation as declared in the album notes: "No microphones were used on this album." Turning away from their earlier "anything goes" sample-based approach, Matmos have limited their sound-generating palette to synthesizers of all stripes, ranging from vintage modular behemoths to breath-controlled oscillators.
Perhaps indicating dissension from their status as the bleeding-edge of intellectualized technocratic art music, SUPREME BALLOON is literally bursting with joyous pleasure-making whimsy and humor. Steeped in the characteristic oscillator drift and warm buzz of analog synthesizers, the jerky, randomly-firing electronics recall the `60s psychedelic Moog-pop of Perrey & Kingsley. On the opener, "Rainbow Flag," sputtering blasts of pitched noise and woozy bass tones weave percussive accents around a chipper samba beat. Despite playing with conventional musical forms, Matmos' penchant for irreverent deconstruction shines through, as in the voice-modulated dissonance of "Mister Mouth," a bizarre patchwork of squeaks, squeals and disco beats featuring the Sun Ra Arkestra's Marshall Allen. But the album is not merely a DSP-driven extrapolation of extra-musical textures, as evidenced on the title track, "Supreme Balloon," an album-side length meditation on classic `70s electronic music. Featuring 20-plus minutes of dramatic buildups and climaxes, the album with its plangent, droning filigrees recalls the work of pioneering minimal composer Terry Riley.
ReviewsMatmos relax their usual conceptual rigour with their delightful seventh album....SUPREME BALLOON adds up to the duo's most consistently enjoyable album yet. - Uncut