Matmos Rides ‘Supreme’

Courtesy of A.j. Farkas

Courtesy of A.j. Farkas
Maryland’s Drew Daniel (left) and Martin Schmidt (right) of Matmos toured with Björk in 2007.

Matmos is generally considered to be an electronic experimental band. The word “experimental” scares away even the most passionate music fans. Repeated listens are usually established after you’ve already decided that you like a record—when you’re trying to find the nuances in it that make you like it as opposed to just being confused with an array of sounds, or lack thereof.
And of course that’s not even mentioning all the synth, another music term that scares music fans on this side of the century. While synth might have been thrown around freely back in the ’80s, Frank Black, Kurt Cobain and the grunge kids pretty much killed that in the early ’90s. As years passed, there was even less synth used. So, where’s the intrigue in Matmos, especially considering the new album “Supreme Balloon” features nothing but synth?
Matmos’ use of electronica gives a sound altogether distinct from practically anything else in music. Every one of its records is distinguishable based on whatever members Daniel Drew and Martin Schmidt are influenced by at the time. Having abandoned anything traditional about their music and going completely to the electronic format gives the two more freedom to push their style than ever before. Everything flows on the new record, and often you forget that the entire album is electronic, because the sound is so versatile.
Even though you would expect the album to have limited range, it touches on everything a fan of instrumental music would want from techno to psychedelia. The first half of the record really emphasizes fast-moving beats, while the second half is for you to listen to while zoning out, and looking at a cloud of stars.
“Rainbow Flag” rushes through with pounding beats along notes that sound like Super Mario hitting coin boxes. In the middle of the song, something similar to horns pull you into a black hole, and the track has a mystique as it continues on with sounds that stretch themselves until a playful ending. “Polychords” is much more organized in comparison, a bouncy song that starts off with beating chords, along with scattered notes layered over it. A bassy interlude grabs you until the song morphs back.
“Mister Mouth” doesn’t lose a beat; it is a heavy piece equipped with everything from shooting lasers to crunchy rolling bass. “Exciter Lamp” is next, filled with thumping drums that feel like they were thrown into a popcorn machine. The beats are always going off, as if there were 10 people slapping their hands against their legs and whatever hard object they could find. You can’t help but get caught up in the pure fun of it all. After these up-tempo songs, the album settles down into something mellow to end.
“Les Folies Francaises” is a majestic piece that is played as if a king is walking down to his throne. The exotic title track, “Supreme Balloon,” is the centerpiece of the album, spanning more than half of the 44-minute length. It dives completely into psychedelia, and is something that loosens your mind to your surroundings. There’s an incredible amount of buildup and the song transforms numerous times. “Cloudhopper” ends the album with something completely spacey, and is very complementary to its epic predecessor. It’s easy to take off with the song as it reaches its zenith, but the ending will slowly float you back down.
“Supreme Balloon” will take you wherever your imagination allows. It’s an experience that is hard to describe but easy to get lost in once you let it happen. It is supposed to challenge your idea of music. It is not supposed to be like everything else. The album is something to appreciate on a different level than some pop album that’s exploding onto the music sale charts. Is it confusing? At times, yes. Is it completely intricate? Definitely. Does it abandon the traditional format of music you hear everyday? Of course. But that’s all part of its beauty.