Matmos - XOYO, Shoreditch - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Matmos - XOYO, Shoreditch

by Julian Paszkiewicz Rating: Release Date:

"Expect the unexpected" is one of the single most predictable clichés in the book. Pick up any listings section and it's 99 per cent certain you'll read that phrase at least once. Sometimes, it can feel like the one promise that's broken almost as many times as it is made.

Since 1991, London artist Vicki Bennett has been making audio-visual collages from archive film and sound under the name People Like Us. Counting exhibitions at the Tate Modern and Sydney Opera House on her CV, an opening slot for Matmos at the 450 capacity XOYO might not seem a logical addition to her constellation of high profile commissions. Even more so, as she is met with half an audience talking at the back and another transfixed with the images on screen at the front.

Unlike Adam Curtis (which relies on a clear, strong narrative to draw the viewer's attention in straight away), her mix of bleak clips from vintage sci-fi TV shows set against the music of The Beach Boys takes a little while to get acclimatised to. But for those willing to stick it out, the effect is surprisingly immersive. Subtle rhythms in the footage become perfectly syncopated with those in the songs. Her off-kilter combinations genuinely leave you with no clue as to what's coming next and, because of this, there is perhaps no one better to support Matmos tonight.

Formed in 1995, the partnership of MC Schmidt and Drew Daniel has always been an interesting proposition. Capturing sounds ranging from crayfish to surgeons, theirs is a body of work both unmistakable and unpredictable. Having released records on Matador and Thrill Jockey, played at the request Slint and collaborated with Bjork and Rachel's, the band have managed to enjoy a status well beyond The Wire's back-pages.

Just when you think you've got them sussed, they go on to surprise you again. Reassuringly, their latest LP, The Marriage of True Minds, continues in this tradition. Tonight's performance of 'Very Large Green Triangles' starts with a geometric narration and ends in a something you can actually dance to. 'ESP' begins with a funeral doom riff and the sort of scorched, misanthropic vocal shrieks lifted straight from the back catalogues of Khanate and Burning Witch. Yet somehow, it seamlessly transitions into a mildly jazzier version of Neu!

Two songs in, and its abundantly clear. If there is one thing that makes Matmos so compelling, it is fact that they actually play live. Simply not content with standing over laptops for an hour,the treat tonight's audience to projections, Indian bells, slide guitars, electric guitars, and live drums. At one point, Schmidt pulls out a giant balloon. Vigorously squeezing and rubbing it, Daniel samples the sounds against otherworldly beats with the result resembling a 'Weird' Al Yankovic parody of 20 Jazz Funk Greats.

Conceived in dreams, yet built to withstand giant forces, experiencing Matmos's sonic experiments tonight can feel like witnessing the last 50 years of music smashed though a particle accelerator. More pastoral songs like 'Y.T.T.E.' from 2003's The Civil War sound like the glowing traces of decaying particles in the ether.

While tonight might not say much about the origins of the universe, it does show once again that Matmos remain an accurate and reliable barometer for the unexpected, the eclectic and the worthwhile.

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