Matmos have played twice in London in the last year or so. Firstly, a show at a make-shift space on the Old Kent Road (now a large quantity of flats) and most recently at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as part of the Meltdown Festival. They are savvy, self-mocking and cool enough to make incisive commentaries on where their work appears – ultimate space perhaps an underground club in Berlin. So, to see the show at the QEH is of course funny because this is a proper, grown up space for ‘real’ music (whereas the London show last year was literally in an empty car servicing unit).
For Meltdown they pull together a band with drums and electric guitar and, although not filling the venue, manage to deliver an entertaining show. The self-referential and deliberately ‘stagey’ approach works well, as we the audience comfortably seated await each piece. The stand out piece is a tribute to Alan Turing that evokes Nazi era video, decoding and textual reveals, layered with Matmos sound. Watching men, and it is usually blokes not women, huddled over laptop sets with Ableton plinking away can be deathly boring – but Drew Daniel manages to avoid all of these cliches as he anchors the groove and fires in beats and off beats. The elegant guitar playing of Owen Gardner provides subtle twang and scratchiness when required, as MC Schmidt anti-comperes us through the set. At one point a piercing electronic howl emits from a mixing desk and Schmidt easily works this into the routine. At their best Matmos, play across the live and pre-recorded spaces, so that the works are always fresh but somehow grounded in a core idea. In fact many of the works clearly start out from a conceptual basis and in this instance the humour grins through the set.
We are treated to a final piece involving live spanking, glitch video and of course coin-tossing to determine who gets a seeing to. In this manner, we cross into the hybrid space that spans John Cage, industrial music, S&M cabaret and performance art. Not far away, at Stratford, the London 2012 Olympics breeze on with endless loops of the Chariots of Fire theme tune, while we sit and watch Schmidt’s right bum cheek get redder and redder.
Thank you, Matmos.
December 2017 – Addendum: I spoke to Matmos at this gig and invited them to come to the UK for a residency at Metal. This was warmly welcomed but somehow spiralled off into the ‘unlikely’ column of the programme. However, at the behest of Martin, an email came back out of the blue and Matmos arrived at Chalkwell Park in July 2015. Their tracks can be listened to here, including a jam with the Chalkwell Park peacocks.
Simon Poulter, August 2012 and December 2017