Matmos: Greetings / Ukuchy dla Bogusław Schaeffer Album Review

The two men from Matmos live rebukes to the idea that conceptual art is somehow scary and inaccessible. When they decide to make a track of the sounds of a breast implant or a cow’s womb, they challenge themselves not only to use those sounds, but also to make them sound funky and fun. In a recent interview with Norwegian recording artist Lasse Marhaug, MC Schmidt – half of the duo along with his musical and romantic partner Drew Daniel – described being one of 10 people at an electro-acoustic festival a few years ago; the problem, he thought, was that the hall had only invited ‘academic composers’ to the festival, rather than putting up flyers and announcing the public. “I feel that multi-channel electro-acoustic music can and should be a populist/popular art form,” said Schmidt. “Just, for example, enjoyed by anyone who smokes marijuana.”

Their new album Greetings / bows to Bogusław Schaeffer integrates electro-acoustic music and populist art in a very literal way. While most of the record is stylistically in line with the duo’s method of mapping sounds from unconventional sources onto a rhythmic grid of electronic pop, all of the sounds here come from a sample pack the duo created from the electro-acoustic works created by the Polish composer Bogusław Schaeffer at the influential Polish Radio Experimental Studio in the 1960s and 1970s. The pair weren’t aware of Schaeffer’s music before the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Poland put the sample pack into use, and it’s hard to blame them: While it was popular in Poland, especially in the 1990s, Schaeffer is little known in Abroad. Recordings and performances of his pieces aren’t always easy to come by, but anyone looking at David Lynch’s great recent touring print Inland Empire will have heard his work.

The 11 pieces included in the sample pack provided just about everything the duo could possibly need for the album’s eight tracks. Choral samples take on the role that fake angel choir presets generally play in electronic music, casting eerie chords to create a sense of grandeur and doom. It seems unbelievable that a ridiculously funky bit of frat-rock organ on “Cobra Wages Shuffle / Off! Schable w gurę!” could be from Schaeffer, but no, it’s from Schaeffer’s “ES Jazz.” (The titles are bilingual and three are wonderful anagrams for Schaeffer’s name.) A bunch of bells crisscross the landscape of opener “Resemblage / Parasamblaż”—not the fairytale but gruff jingling that emphasizes the fact of bells as percussion instruments. Then there are the bells. Matmos loves to honk, and Schaeffer gives them no shortage of it.

Leave a Comment