I went with some friends to hear Matmos and So Percussion play a show at (Le) Poisson Rouge this week. Lichens opened for them. I've never heard of him, but he played an interesting set consisting of only one song. Although perhaps when a song passes the ten minute mark, you make some allowances. It was just one guy, whom the interweb tells me is named Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. I'd like to tell you more about how he made music, but all I can say is that it seemed to come from a box with a lot of wires coming out, which he would manipulate to different effects. And his incredible voice. It was an ambient swirl of sound with his otherworldly vocals on top. His visuals were extra trippy too, with brightly colored shapes dripping into each other.
I've seen So Percussion a couple of times (see my earlier post about them here), but never Matmos. While waiting for them to come on, my friends and I discussed the cactus sitting on a stool. It seemed to be wired up, but just how would it be "played" or "percussed?" Our only answer: very carefully.
So Percussion did not disappoint. They did indeed "play" the cactus, coming out one at a time, and gathering around it, plucking the spines in playful counterpoint. The cactus is a good example of the unexpectedness and the humor that I've come to associate with So Percussion. They seem like pretty quiet guys. They don't do a lot of stage theatrics and hardly any talking, but they always provide some surprises and a lot of their humor comes through in the music.
So Percussion moves around a bit onstage, but the duo who are Matmos pretty much stay put behind tables. From where I was standing, I had a hard time seeing them. Now that I've been introduced to their music, I'd love to hear more. Matmos makes music out of everything from pouring water to samples of heart murmurs. And it's not just an exercise in musical idiosyncrasy, they actually make it tuneful and exciting to listen to. They also seem like the Gilbert and George of the experimental music world and how can you not like that? Also, I read that Drew Daniel teaches at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins! Charm City, indeed. Despite my obstructed view, I managed one drawing of MC Schmidt as he told a ridiculously funny story.