- Supposedly, Matmos's last album was about an idea in Drew Daniel's head, which he tried to convey to a series of test subjects via telepathy. But really the album was about all of the other "abouts" that spun off from that (still) secret idea. The music's perverse composition method, spread of collaborators and bizarre jumble of styles drew attention to the double meanings and misunderstandings that cluster around any piece of art. We can never really know what an artist intends. The Marriage Of True Minds placed that mystery at the centre of our enjoyment.
The duo's newest album takes the opposite route to a similar insight. A 38-minute suite constructed entirely from sounds made by a washing machine, Ultimate Care II has the single-mindedness its predecessor lacked. But every spin of the drum throws out a fresh interpretation. Ultimate Care II is the model of washer owned by the pair; as a title, it also hints at domesticity and the emotional labour of housework. It's no longer manufactured, echoing the obsession with the obsolete in dance music culture, where discontinued kit becomes the grail of authenticity. Martin Schmidt has also connected this water-intensive appliance to the California drought and "American waste."
Another thing about a washing machine is that it runs in cycles—as do life, our daily routines, and the music cultures that Matmos have so cleverly dissected over the past two decades. The duo emphasise this, opening Ultimate Care II with the sound of water pumping into the machine and ending it after the length of a wash. The music in between is masterfully blended together (the transitions can be as interesting as the tracks themselves), and ideas sometimes recur across tracks, echoing yet another cycle: the symphonic one.
The pair used contact mics and transducers attached to the machine's resonant drum to get a rich library of sounds. In sparser moments—like the billowing granular clusters from the 6:40 mark—the effects recall musique concréte heroes like Pierre Henry. Elsewhere, the concréte method is directed at the modern age. There's a brief Jersey club-like passage near the beginning, and then, 21 minutes in, there's slapstick slow-house, whose shrieks of a wet thumb rubbing on metal sound like distressed elephants.
This is all standard Matmos; nothing here upsets their musical applecart. But the washing machine conceit gives their sample trickery a dramatic edge. It sometimes feels like we're descending deep into the innards of the machine. Towards the end, a three-and-a-half-minute recording of chugging water is gently filtered so that, on headphones, it seems to be swirling around your head. That subtle moment is blasted away by a climactic gabber workout, all booming metal and shrill glitch loops. And then it ends with an obnoxious beep, and you peer at the display, scratch your head and press "start" again.
01. Ultimate Care II