Matmos’ The Marriage Of True Minds, the new record from the heady, now Baltimore-based electronic music duo, is smart, didactic music. Fittingly, MC Schmidt and Drew Daniel have both taught in the past: Schmidt was a teacher in the new genres department at the San Francisco Art Institute while Daniel, also an accomplished music writer, teaches English at Johns Hopkins University. The Marriage Of True Minds certainly sounds like your electronic music professor’s project, the one that he reveals at the end of the class after his students have given their presentations, the one that blows all of the student projects out of the water.
Yet, The Marriage Of True Minds is interdisciplinary in the truest sense. The music on the album was inspired by the results of Schmidt and Daniel-led psychological experiments four years in the making. Topping the ambition of 2001’s A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure, in which Matmos created compositions out of hospital sounds, or 2003’s The Civil War, which explored the folky sounds of 1860s American music, The Marriage Of True Minds was formed from experiments in which Schmidt and Daniel tried to telepathically communicate to participants the goals for Matmos’ new record. Schmidt and Daniel asked the participants about the images that popped into participants’ heads when a telepathic connection was attempted. A number of participants talked about triangles, an instrument that appears on also-bagpipe-featuring In Search Of A Lost Faculty (in conjunction with audio vocal recordings of the experiment participants), and, yes, on the track Very Large Green Triangles.
But on a strictly musical level, Matmos continue to cement themselves in the grand tradition of experimental electronic music with The Marriage Of True Minds. On Ross Transcript, the duo creates music by recording an individual flipping through a radio dial on what sounds like a distant planet, hitting stations that play everything from muzak to, um, telephones ringing. Very Large Green Triangles mixes the aforementioned percussive instrument over hilariously robotic vocals, bass, and piano. Mental Radio layers a conga beat over splashing sounds. And the unexpectedly danceable standout track Teen Paranormal Romance combines a wavering bass with lightly percussive beats and blips, a linear journey that might soundtrack a Twilight movie in the alternate universe Matmos creates on The Marriage Of True Minds.
Still, there are more obviously danceable tracks, such as the synth-heavy, zooming, action-packed Tunnel. While a piece like Tunnel may inspire weird looks on the faces of club-goers, it’s certainly enough to make you unconsciously bob your head when you’re listening on your headphones, studying at the library alongside Schmidt and Daniel. Opener You is an uncomfortable, squeaky, violin-laden track that is simultaneously peaceful because of the soft-spoken female voice that accompanies it, one that literally makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin, free to move as you please. In fact, Matmos use female voices to similar effect on the entire album, including featuring Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner on Aetheric Vehicle.
Yet, the best thing about this album, and Matmos’ music in general, is that it works both on a conceptual level and on a base listening level. Matmos’ best album, 2006’s brilliant The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast, explicitly wore its influences (every song was dedicated to and titled by an individual who has inspired Matmos) while still featuring original music. The Marriage Of True Minds continues this trend. It’s music that’s as interesting and fun to read about as it is to listen to.