Matmos – Ultimate Care II – Album Review

Music and fashion go way back, probably for as long as either have existed. These days, however, they’re more intertwined than ever, with a number of music’s biggest names working as fashion designers, models, or icons, in their own regard. Electronic music and high fashion are particularly interwoven, as cutting-edge designers soundtrack their runway catwalks with booming beats and glistening synths.

Considering all of that, it stands to reason that someone would flip the script, and make electronic music out of fashion.

Quite literally.

album art Matmos Ultimate Care II

Matmos are some of electronic music’s longest-running and most notorious sonic dada punk conceptualists, crafting countless musique concrete odysses over the last 22 years. Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt have made oddly-danceable albums out of everything from plastic surgery noises to automata to civil war battles to psychic powers.

On Ultimate Care II, Matmos are at it again, this time using the humble source of a vintage washing machine.

This is no laundromat field recording, however; Daniels and Schmidt are too hyper-detailed and fussy for such a thing. During the course of Ultimate Care II‘s epic 38-minute, single-track duration, the pair beat, abuse, coerce, cajole, and manipulate recordings from a vintage Whirlpool Ultimate Care II washing machine.

Rather than being merely an academic study, Ultimate Care II is more like a primer of every modern electronic music methodology in one mammoth document. The washing machine is treated as an echo chamber; a source for MIDI data; and as a signal generator for all manner of industrial clangs, bellows, and groans.

What is striking about UCII is its cohesion. Daniels and Schmidt take us on a journey through the most cosmic laundromat in existence, beginning with the bare recordings of the machine filling, and spreading to encapsulate rhythmic drum ‘n’ bass; splashy, sudsy ambient music; and the most aggressive spin cycle this side of a pair of soccer cleats in an empty dryer.

It’s a fascinating listen, that will leave you listening to the wash in an entirely new way.

More and more, electronic music is engaging in a dialogue with the lifestyle industry, as with the rather excellent album Body Complex by Brooklyn producer Heathered Pearls on Ghosty International a few years ago, providing a makeshift soundtrack for an Ikea catalog. Too often, however, it seems the statements are either for or against the lifestyle industry, as if our only choices are to don some Health Goth gear and join some graphic design firm, or else adopt a troll-like, luddite post-industrial stance, like the decayed, rusty beats coming out of Hospital Productions and Downwards Records, these past few years.

It’s a good night when you get to hear Matmos jam with a washing machine! #matmos #floristree

A photo posted by Alexandra Gardner (@alexgardner) on

Unfortunately, living and working in the modern world isn’t that simple or cut-and-dry. Most of us compromise with the machine, to some extent; hopefully, using the tools of production to express ourselves and help shape the world into the way we’d like to see it.

It is to Matmos’ credit that they resist such easy polemics. They show, rather than tell, leaving us to make up our own mind. As Thrill Jockey put it, “we experience an exploded view of the machine.”

Big props to Thrill Jockey, as always, for yet again giving two fingers to the idea of strict genre boundaries, instead focusing on creating dense, imaginative works of visionary art. And big ups to Matmos, proving themselves to be more vital and contemporary than ever before.

words by J Simpson. Mateos’s “Ultimate Care II” is available now at your favorite store.