M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel of Matmos, who perform at Hollywood Forever… (courtesy Matmos )
It’s debatable whether you should listen to the Soft Pink Truth’s remix of Baltimore duo Matmos’ new track, "Aetheric Vehicle," before or after you read about the music's origins and the philosophy behind it. Either way you win, but the remix, which is making its U.S. premiere on Pop & Hiss, certainly has a fascinating back story. So do Matmos, who will perform at the Masonic Hall at Hollywood Forever cemetery on Monday.
A remix of a track from the group’s excellent forthcoming record, “The Marriage of True Minds,” “Aetheric Vehicle” is the result of a project that harnessed what Matmos described in the liner notes as “psychic experimental sessions” to create the concepts that the pair then translated into music.
You can read more about the process at the group’s website, but here’s an excerpt from Matmos co-founder Drew Daniel’s introduction, in which he explains the notion of the Ganzfeld experiment, "a classic para-psychological experiment" in which participants are isolated from external sensations with their eyes covered with halved Ping Pong balls, and red light is shone in their face.
“After a rest period and a countdown triggered by a set signal, test subjects or 'percipients' are instructed to empty their minds and try to receive any incoming psychic signals," Daniel writes. "Resting comfortably in an adjacent room and staring at a fixed point in space, I try to transmit ‘the concept of the new Matmos album’ from my mind into the minds of the targeted percipients. The test subject is asked to describe out loud any sounds they seem to hear in their minds, to hum along or sing along if they hear musical phrases, and to describe any objects or actions or events that they seem to see or hear during the session.”
Matmos then translated those experiences into music, resulting in "Marriage."
Such boundaries and restrictions are nothing new for Matmos. Over its 18-year life, the team of Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt have crafted work based on recordings taken from surgical operating rooms, have focused on sounds of the Civil War and have restricted their instrumental usage to early analog synthesizers. Most shockingly, the duo's music is never as wonky and academic as it sounds. Rather, their tracks push at edges of electronic dance music while remaining utterly groove-heavy.
That's also true of this remix. Drew Daniel is, in fact, responsible for it, so this is more of an in-house remix than a farmed out reinterpretation. But Soft Pink Truth has existed for over a decade as Daniel's more house-friendly alter-ego, so the distinction is necessary. (His remix of Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" is essential.)
"Aetheric Vehicle" is the result of a Ganzfield experiment conducted on composer/musician Keith Fullerton Whitman, best known under his Hrvatski moniker. Here's what he experienced during the session.
"Visually I’m seeing an inverted pentagram, oddly. The shape of a small metal bracket. The word 'grandiose' just popped into my head," he writes. "Chinese checkers. The Swiss alps. I see the shape of an 'S' spline curve. And in the noise I can make out distant Gregorian singing, massed singing. I can sort of see shapes like re-entry, coming back from space, sort of contrails. A thin melody like upper whistling. The word “piecemeal”. A long, non-repeating melody, sort of a long snaking pentatonic melody."