The Telepathy and Tap Dancing of Matmos

The gay electronic maestros behind Matmos used BDSM supplies and mind-reading experiments to create their new album.



Matmos - Very Large Green Triangles from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

A theme that appeared in numerous psychic sessions produced the album’s catchiest song, “Very Large Green Triangles.” Fellow Baltimore rocker Ed Schrader’s booming voice repeats the song’s title against gothic-pop–inspired chamber music, creating an eerie, post-industrial tone harkening back to mainstream popular music so well that the tune lingers between the listener’s ears.

“We like pop music,” says Daniel. “We like to apply conceptual ways of working through the creation of pop music, so for us, there’s the challenge of making sure that there’s an honest section.”

Matmos’ newest album is profoundly listenable — at once complex and melodic, soothing and jarring, full of found sounds, synthesizers, and, for the first time in the band’s 20-year-history, a significant helping of human voices. Marriage features the vocal stylings of electronic and indie-rock heavy hitters such as Dan Deacon, Carly Ptak of Nautical Almanac, and even Half Japanese’s Jason Willett, who strummed a rubber band that becomes the resonant bass line for the album’s opening track, “You.”

Schmidt and Daniel lend their own voices to the record’s closing act, a heavy metal–influenced cover of the Buzzcocks’ “E.S.P.” In a first for the musical duo, who have been a couple for 20 years, they harmonize to recite the record’s closing lines, imploring listeners to open their minds to the album’s telepathic possibilities. “If you’re picking up on me, then you’ll know just what to do,” sings Matmos. “So…think.” They have never sung together on an album before.

“I didn’t foresee a lot of singing, and honestly I’m very suspicious of electronic records where there are celebrity guest vocalists…. I think that’s a kind of contrived thing to do,” Daniel says. “But it just happened to be the case that so many of the song’s transcripts called for singing, or voice in various ways, and it does also happen that we know a lot of people whose voices we really like. So I feel like it emerged honestly and organically, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?”

It’s a stark but courageous conclusion to an esoteric almanac of abstract noise, tap dancing, stringed instruments, and sounds inspired by Latin American and Ethiopian regional music — with a healthy dose of Baltimore underground grit and grime. The Marriage of True Minds eagerly defies classification into a single genre, creating a complex and challenging yet pleasurable listening experience.

And as for the album title? Daniel, who is also a literature professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says the album’s name is not an homage to his adopted home state, which approved marriage equality by popular vote last November. Rather, it’s a shout-out to Daniel’s fellow bookworms, who are likely to catch the reference to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. But Daniel isn’t particularly eager to announce the connection.

“I think compelling art doesn’t necessarily announce its relationship to something,” he says. “It kind of confronts you with your own questions, and I would rather that be the experience.”


Grab a free download of "Teen Paranormal Romance" from The Marriage of True Minds right here:

Matmos embarks on a North American tour next month, stepping off from New York City's Le Poisson Rouge on February 11. Click here for tour dates, videos, and more information about the band.