Long, weird and shockingly hilarious
Experimental music doesn’t have to be serious. The very nature of the music itself should allow creators to attack the idea of music from every angle, and that includes frivolity. Lately, noise has taken over as the experimental sound of choice thanks to popular musicians like Bon Iver, Charli XCX and others who have taken the world of noise and synthesized that with their more personal and unique tastes. Regardless, experimental music goes far beyond just static and feedback; it can be anything, and Matmos is more prepared to explore that concept than anyone.
In the world of left-field music, Matmos has always been both an outlier and a driving force. Their constant need to push through unexplored territory hasn’t always worked out, but it has shown an authentic curiosity with the world of genuine sonic exploration, and at its best, has led to some truly transcendent output.
For their latest experiment, the duo once again tangles with the idea of creative constraints. While their latest experiments have involved directives like only using a washing machine or using the sounds of liposuction equipment and byproducts, The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form, is both tame and sprawling by comparison. Exchanging focus for eclecticism, the duo sent out a request for 99 musicians to submit a musical work of some sort, whatever they wanted, so long as it was 99bpm. Each artist featured on this record is an absolute powerhouse in their own right, resulting in a list that featured artists like Mouse on Mars, Owen Gardner, clipping., Rabit, Andrew Tuttle, IDM Theft, Oneohtrix Point Never, Galaxy Express 555 and dozens more. The duo then assembled this cacophony into a working piece of art that is as unexpected and thrilling as nearly all of Matmos’ catalog.
If comedy is predicated on the unexpected, then experimental music would be the most uproarious genre of all. Matmos understands this relationship, and uses it to his musical and creative advantage on The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form. Tracks like “I’m Fine, I’m Fine” features ridiculous robotic voices berating one another and saying nonsensical phrases while a ragtime tune plays along in the background. Later on in “On the Team,” a voice cuts in to talk about Twitter where, apparently, all they’re doing is “fucking posting constantly.” These moments of levity are frequent and often lead to real laughs.
Depending on whether the record is purchased from Bandcamp or played via a streaming service, the listener will either be presented with three tracks (“A DOUGHNUT IN THE SKY,” “ON THE TEAM” and “EXTRATERRESTRIAL MASTERS”) of nearly an hour each, or numerous tracks split across three albums. Regardless of the version that one chooses to listen to, the standout moment is easily the track, “Circle of Swords.” This lightly tribal beat comes courtesy of Matmos and clipping., with the latter group’s penchant for noise taking centerstage. Joining forces, Matmos and clipping. are able to create a distinct soundscape that most artists couldn’t even imagine.
The Consuming Flame is unfortunately not without flaws, and while the record is able to get away with its crushing length because of the variance of sounds, the three-hour run time is still excessive and doomed to lose the close attention of the listener sooner or later. Fortunately for people, the songs themselves are exciting, innovative and humorous enough to keep them engaged, even if they only listen to one track at a time.