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Matmos The Consuming Flame

Words: Jamie Orlando 

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It seems like out of the blue one day, my social media feeds just started blowing up about the new Matmos album.  A 3 disc epic featuring a staggering 99 artists, some of whom I know personally, many that I am a fan of.  It was an instant, no-brainer, take-my-friggin-money purchase for me.

If you’ve found your way to this article, Matmos practically needs no introduction, but I’ll give you a refresher just in case.  Matmos is a highly prolific and crucial electronic duo who have been quite active since the 90s, now residing in Baltimore. They’ve released around a bazillion albums, on all different types of labels from the fairly well-known to the impossibly obscure.  I’m still just scratching the surface of their immense discography.

When I got the CD in the mail, I noticed it was very thick in the shrink wrap.  I didn’t think much of it really, being that it is 3 discs and all.  But when I opened the thing up, I just had to let out a cackle.  The insert is literally a large poster.  It’s huge!  It’s the biggest insert of any album I own, around 3’x2′ (which OK, I’m realizing doesn’t sound that big on paper, but just imagine that folded up a million times in CD packaging).  Basically like folding a road map into a puny CD digipak.

Jamie Orlando with Matmos Poster

 

I compared the poster to a road map figuratively, but it quite literally is a road map to the listening experience.  The poster depicts a horizontal timeline across 3 discs, spanning 3 hours showing with colored bars when each of the 99 artists is performing.  Some artists only come in for less than a minute.  Some are featured many times. Some artists you’ve heard of.  Some you haven’t.  It’s very fun to listen to this album and glance down at the poster from time to time to see who is currently playing.

Now let’s get to the music.  Reviewing 3 hours of music can be a bit daunting, so I tried to come up with a game plan.  I decided to listen “blind” and when a section jumped out that spoke to me, I’d write down the timestamp.  Just to be clear, the full 3 hours is great.  It’s really great.  The highlights I captured are really just sections that made my ears perk up.

Matmos - M. C. (Martin) Schmidt and Drew Daniel

Before I get into reviewing my favorite moments of the album, I’d just like to describe the listening experience overall.  Drew Daniel (of Matmos) is the most featured performer on the album, playing throughout most of it, whereas M.C. Schmidt (other half of Matmos) plays on around half of the album.  Other than the Matmos backbone, there is a constant smattering of artists that run the gamut of many different styles sprinkled throughout.  This album does an exceptional job of taking you on an adventure, but transitioning you from point A to point B almost in a way where you almost don’t even know how you got there. Despite having 99 performers, there are no real jarring transitions, and the album just seems to flow really nicely all the way through.

 

A quick technical note. The CD version breaks each disc into tracks whereas the Bandcamp version is just one long track for each disc.  Since at the time of writing this I was listening to the Bandcamp version, I’m going to go based on the timestamps from there. I’d actually personally recommend listening to the Bandcamp version if you want to follow along with the chart, being that the chart goes based on the timestamps of the full disc and not the individual tracks.

 

Without further ado, here are Jamie’s favorite moments of “The Consuming Flame”:

 

Disc 1: A Doughnut In The Sky

21:03 (Drew Daniel, Nate Nelson, Colin Self)

Gorgeous, enchanting, uplifting, cut-up vocal melody backed by some big drums

24:35 (Drew Daniel, M.C. Schmidt)

Gamelan gongs, steady clapping, prepared piano

27:50 (Drew Daniel, Nate Nelson, Clipping)

Rapid cut-ups with vocals by Clipping.  Side note: I’d absolutely love to hear a full length collab between Matmos and Clipping.

34:15 (Drew Daniel, Kevin Gan Yuen, David Grubbs, Dale Cornish)

A more extended section which kind of wanes and waxes. Intense deep piano stabs with syncopated grooves.  Lots of other artists come in and out.


Disc 2: On The Team

17:58 (Drew Daniel, Jim Haynes, Caleb Ellenberg)

Some crazy flute work here

21:43 (M.C. Schmidt, Drew Daniel)

Acid rhythmic synths, no drums

39:10 (Drew Daniel, M.C. Schmidt, David Grubbs, Owen Gardener, Sarah Hennies)

Twangy guitar with backdrop of arpeggiated synths modulating in the stereo field

53:00 (Drew Daniel, Moth Cock)

Mind melting chopped up vocal section with sparse ambient background


Disc 3: Extraterrestrial Masters

00:00 (Drew Daniel, Judith Zissman)

A very strong start to this disc.  Major outer space vibes here.

10:38 (Drew Daniel, M.C. Schmidt, Owen Gardener)

I can’t not mention that spaghetti westerns come to mind with the whistles and twangy slap reverb guitars. I love how this style of Morricone-esque soundtrack music makes its way onto an album like this.

18:33 (Drew Daniel, Bonnie Lander, Adam Rosenblatt, Owen Gardener)

Major key hoe-down with banjos, harmonica and jaw harp. Fun.

37:31 (Drew Daniel, Id M Theft Able, Stephen Thrower)

Amazing mouth noises by Id M, chopped and cut, with jingly backdrop

47:58 (Drew Daniel, Oneohtrix Point Never)

Absolute masters at work. What a combo. Loving the minimal amount of drums and the interplay of the synths creating a rich rhythmic tapestry.

54:34 (M.C. Schmidt, Will Schorre, John Jones, Galaxy Express 555)

Have to admit that I’m a sucker for all these cut-up vocals, mixed with the arpeggiated filtered synths


In conclusion, this is 100% album of the year material and the best work I’ve heard Matmos do, to date.  I have such an amount of respect for a team that can make music together for almost 30 years, and still keep it fresh.  That’s what it’s all about for me.

You can pick up this album on the Matmos Bandcamp page, though at the time of writing this article, there are only 5 copies left.  Copies also appear to be available at Thrill Jockey.

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