Matmos, Processing

The Poetics of Processing

So Percussion and Matmos / Treasure State (Cantaloupe)

A collaborative project by electronic pop duo Matmos and New York’s avant-classical ensemble So Percussion, Treasure State is so jampacked with compositional and engineering processes that even Matmos’ M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel scratch their heads about the methodology of its creation.

Matmos joined So Percussion at producer Brett Allen’s SnowGhost Studios in Whitefish, Montana, for a series of studies focusing on the musical potentials of elementary materials such as ceramic planters, pails of water and aluminum beer cans. The tracks generated at SnowGhost were subsequently diced & spliced by San Francisco plunderphonicist Wobbly, and finally Schmidt and So Percussion’s Lawson White overdubbed other instruments and sounds, then processed and mixed the results.

The tantalizingly trippy endproduct came about through the interface of odd sound samples and even odder post-production choices. The glitchy funk of “Cross” has some surprising sources.

“I took a bunch of distorted recordings of swing and big-band drumming,” says Daniel, “and then I viciously EQ’d and exaggerated all the pops and dropouts that the vinyl transferred, hence there’s barely any of the swing left.” Daniel used the Max MSP signal processing software to draw out previously unheard sonorities from the vinyl tracks.

Much of the Matmos portion of the material was generated live with Daniel’s Emu E6400 sampler, with live- and post-processing via Ableton Live and Digital Performer. On “Cactus,” So Percussion played a, yes, a cactus, amplified with Barcus Berry transducer contact mic. As the group fondled the cactus, the signal was sent to Brett Allen, who processed the output with a harmonizer. Daniel then took the harmonized signal, chopped it up and put that into samples which were then sequenced into MIDI, which Daniel then sent to different sounds; Schmidt did dublike edits to what Daniel had done.

“Cross’’’s dense sonics derive from real kit drums, hand claps, multiple guitar layers and the cries of a hunting call that Schmidt bought at a sporting goods shop in Montana. “It’s supposed to imitate two female elks in estrus, fighting for the attention of the male,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a double-reed thing where you can’t play the same pitch on the two reeds simultaneously, so they’re constantly doing these sort of frequency modulation bends back and forth.”

After Wobbly then built the assembled bird calls into a solo, says Daniel, “it sounds like Rahsaan Roland Kirk records being playing backwards in a blender.”