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Matmos - Supreme Balloon

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Artist: Matmos

Album: Supreme Balloon

Label: Matador

Review date: May. 20, 2008

Matmos’ Supreme Balloon, the duo’s seventh full-length release, comes not with the expected list of bizarre samples that have traditionally been contained in their albums over the past ten years, but rather with these seven words: “No microphones were used on this album.” Though every disc Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt have managed in their time together has been marked by a drastic detour from its predecessor, the use of microphones in generating odd-job samples has been the binding agent that enforced some measure of cohesion from album to successive album.

Thus, while 2001’s A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure dealt in plastic surgery sonics and 2006’s The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast approached a series of seemingly disparate character sketches, the subject matter was always handled through the same approach – samples, ranging from forehead lifts and nose jobs to covert sex acts and Daniel’s own tormented howl while having his flesh burned, twisted and mutated to fit Matmos’ thematic treatise of the moment.

Though relieved of their field recording duties, Daniel and Schmidt still manage to impose another concept for their latest album, this time focusing on a palette of sounds generated and recorded using an arsenal of vintage synths. If it seems like a massive departure from their recent work, it isn’t exactly. Still imbued with the same intoxicating sense of whimsy that often permeates their lighter moments, Supreme Balloon moves back and forth between sublime Kraut homage and buoyant electro-pop.

With the help of folks like Keith Fullerton Whitman, Jay Lesser, Jon Leidecker, and the Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen, Matmos focus on an ebullient bounce for the album’s first few tracks. They race through mechanistic reproductions of lounge and exotica on album opener “Rainbow Flag,” while Daniel retains that same spirit for the solo stomp of “Polychords,” coming close to the type of unabashed dancefloor material he’s worked to great effect as the Soft Pink Truth.

While Matmos manage to obliquely touch on minimal techno with “Exciter Lamp and the Variable Band,” spinning those sounds into realms wholly unconcerned with cold-handed precision, the mammoth title track is the real keystone to this record, and one that brings with it an obvious affection for all things Cluster or Tangerine Dream. Beginning with a faint pulse, Daniel and Schmidt put together a veritable army of vintage gear in the service in a steadily expanding cosmic groove, feeding it until it climaxes and then slowly fades away.

As it stands, it’s one of the lightest things Matmos have ever recorded, with a concept so basic that it offers only the loosest framework for these two to pursue the sounds of their synthesizers as the mood strikes them. Ultimately, it underscores everything that’s right with Supreme Balloon – in the absence of any larger narrative structure, the group’s latest album afford them the chance not to be modern theoreticians par excellence, but rather a couple of earnest music fans that convey their own passion through the sounds they create.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Matmos

Live, High and Dirty

The Civil War

The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast

A Marriage of True Minds

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