Review Summary: An album that might divide listeners
M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel are certainly two hyperactive individuals. Matmos is an electronic group that does one element of their style so well that it puts a major damper on anything else they attempt. By this, I am talking about their seventh sample-free masterpiece album, Supreme Balloon
in 2008. While Matmos’ other albums are certainly ambitious and fun to experience, spanning various genres of folk, musique concrete, glitch, house and IDM, they don’t reach the level of nostalgia, and the homeland feeling of Supreme Balloon. Supreme Balloon took a bunch of people completely off guard with its very synthesized and computerized, but also very organic and natural feeling. Every song was glitchy, artistic, weird and quirky, but also had a very childish vibe to it. It was as if one were a kid again playing Yoshi’s Island on the Gameboy Advance or drawing a painting for the first time on an easel your parents bought for you. So after all of these releases, and Supreme Balloon being their most entrancing, you’d expect them to make an album that captured that similar mood, right? After all, why waste a good idea for one that could be lacking?
Well, as one might suspect, they tried to avoid making the same album twice and came out with The Marriage of True Minds
. The album was an even weirder and experimental venture into electronic music as it tried to cover the concept of parapsychology and telepathy, which is a fairly neat and psychedelic concept; the last song on the album “ESP” stands for Extrasensory Perception which further prove this claim and the song “In Search of a Lost Faculty” has vocal samples of people describing visions of triangles.
With this in mind, the album is quite possibly the most versatile in their discography varying from too many genres to count. Jazzy smooth bass melodies, piano melodies and bouncy house beats envelope themselves around atonal voice samples on the opening track “You.” Quirky and jittery beats surround odd sounding notes and vocal samples on the song “Very Large Green Triangles,” while a very minimal and haunting atmosphere emanates from “Mental Radio” as the song is almost completely sparse of anything but tribal drumming surrounded by quirky glitch beats. Swooshes of water can be heard in the background as well and it just gives it a very natural feeling. The album takes a turn for the weirdest as it goes completely off the deep end on tracks like “Ross Transcript” composed only of field recordings and natural noises. The song “Teen Paranormal Romance” is the only song on this album, other than maybe “Aetheric Vehicle,” that sounds even remotely close to anything nostalgic to Supreme Balloon and it is probably the strongest song on the album. With its warm synthesizers and house beats, it’s no doubt that at least they haven’t totally forgotten their sound. While “Tunnel” is a really fun and enjoyable song that takes influences from trance and house while also adding funk and tribal aspects into the music. Most of these songs just completely lose all direction, this song manages to make a smooth transition into the next genre.
However, the main problem with The Marriage of True Minds
is concerns to its consistency. Now, most of the time, inconsistency is not a bad thing at all; however, in this case, it is not done very well. A song like “Mental Radio” has a very tribal sound to it and then randomly switches to field recordings and noise on a track like “Ross Transcript.” A song like “Tunnel” which is a pretty basic jazzy trance/house tune is a complete outlier from a song like “In Search of a Lost Faculty” which is very haunting and evil sounding with organ screeching in the background and odd voice samples. Another problem with the album is that it does not know what it wants to be. On an album like Supreme Balloon that was relatively jolly and happy all the way through, this album is a scatterbrain, bipolar, inept beast that can’t decide what flavor of ice cream to choose. Some sound effects they chose throughout this album just make no sense and some of them generally don’t sound very good. For example, on nearly every track there is a very annoying triangle sound that just comes out of nowhere. The last song on the album “ESP” is a complete and utter flow breaker that showcases pseudo-death metal vocals with little to no substance. From then on, the song is very annoying, quirky and loud and does not stop until roughly the last two minutes where they try to venture back in time to the 1960’s to a very rock oriented sound.
These problems are pretty large and distracting when looking at the album as a whole, but overall The Marriage of True Minds
is not bat at all. Sure, it is not a very large step forward, a lot of people will probably say that it’s a big step back from their previous endeavors, but it certainly shows that they are able to put together a concept well. Everything that one will hear on this album was all part of an experiment to test precognition, telepathy, clairvoyance and listening to this album with the concept in mind is very neat. The stuff that they do well on this album is extremely well done; however, that does not save the album from being a relatively sloppy mess. It’s an inconsistent and wish-washy listen, and sometimes more experimental than it needs to be and it comes off as mundane and not very fun sometimes. It’s also a pretty big disappointment when compared to a near-masterpiece like Supreme Balloon
, where all of the nostalgic qualities have been revoked and replaced with almost no sentimental value. Some songs are really good, and others are not; all in all, it’s a mixed bag. For what it is, it’s decent album with a neat concept, but nothing more.