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Live With J Lesser

Live With J Lesser
(Vague Terrain)

In the time between touring with Björk and finishing the follow-up to their brilliant A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure, Matmos decided to apease their more hardcore fans with this release of 11 largely improvised tracks recorded between 1997 and 2001, many of them with the help of J Lesser. I say "more hardcore" above simply because those buying this release in hopes of hearing something as structured as their last release will be sorely dissapointed. Although there are moments on the release when everything gels together amazingly, it's mainly comprised of schizo electronic fuckery and almost music concrete sound experiments.

One of the somewhat surprising things (to me, anyway) about the release is that even though all the tracks were recorded in completely different locations at many different times, the disc has a nice flow and the levels are tight all around. Low ends rumble, the tweaked-out squiggles hit all the right peaks, and even the little nuances are readily distinguishable. That latter part is actually a rather important element of the release, because as the group has shown in the past, they tend to have highly inventive sound sources, many of which rely on subtlety.

Speaking of strange sound sources, the crux of track 1 (tracks are simply titled by number) is comprised of sounds made by M.C. Schmidt slopping around a 3-gallon bucket of oatmeal for sploogy goodness. That opening short track is followed by another short one in which an oscillating tone simply warbles at different intensity while a clicky beat threatens to bust loose but never really does. The longer third track is another stew of processed vocals, gurgling electronics, and pitter-pattering beats (which would later go on to be the Lesser track "Hindu Shuffle And Force." It's absolultely all over the place, and after stuttering and shimmeying through almost 7 minutes, it finishes with chopping symphony swells and fuzzy radio bits (one of which is a recognizable mopey british band).

On Track 4, the album finds a bit more of a structure as the group covers a Rachels track (later becoming a collaboration on the Full On Night EP). It's a nice break from the more frantic beginning, and the duo follows it up with hilarious digitally processed duck calls over a chugging clip-hop beat. The rest of the release is all over-the-place as well, but closes out with two completely stunning tracks, neither of which would have been out of place on an actual release by the group. Track 10 drifts through a dusty desert feel, with tweaked-out twangy guitars and a touch of vocals (which sounds like it could have come from off their release The West), while Track 11 finds the duo manipulating balloons and a helium tank over another chunky beat for almost a middle-eastern sounding epic. It's yet another occassion where they take a seemingly odd sound source and manipulate it into something amazing.

As they mention/warn on their website, the release is "extreme electronic music: proceed with caution," and it probably won't appeal to everyone that likes their usual releases, but it's a very interesting look at their creative and improvisational process. Not only that, but there's enough of each of their styles (total freak-out to more structured), that just about anyone will find at least part of the disc to enjoy. It's only available in limited quantities and only through their website, so order it sooner rather than later or you'll be forced to find it later at a higher price on Ebay.

Rating: 7