On February 19, Thrill Jockey Records will release Ultimate Care II, the new album from conceptual art and revered electronic duo Matmos. Ultimate Care II was made entirely out of the sounds generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model washing machine in the basement of their home in Baltimore, Maryland. Harvesting the machine’s rich vocabulary of rhythmic chugs, spin cycle drones, rinse cycle splashes, metallic clanks and electronic beeps, Matmos have crafted a work of sly humor in which one of the quintessential sounds of everyday life is transformed into an unlikely source for a surprisingly listenable suite of music. Guest appearances by Dan Deacon, Jason Willett (Half Japanese) and members of Horse Lords.
Pre-order info here.
November 6, 2015
CONCEPTUAL ART AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC DUO MATMOS TO RELEASE ULTIMATE CARE II, MADE ENTIRELY FROM SOUNDS GENERATED BY THE WHIRLPOOL WASHING MACHINE IN THEIR BASEMENT, FEBRUARY 19, 2016 ON THRILL JOCKEY RECORDS
Made with Contributions from Guests Including Dan Deacon, Jason Willett (Half Japanese), and Members of Horse Lords
Album Excerpt “Ultimate Care II Excerpt Eight” Now Streaming on SoundCloud
Since their formation 20 years ago, driven by their abiding belief in the musical potential of sound, the duo Matmos (Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt) have created a wide range of imaginative recordings and live performances. In addition to releasing a string of acclaimed electronic music albums, they have played the uterus and reproductive tract of a cow at the San Francisco Art Institute, canisters of helium at Radio City Music Hall while opening for Bjork, and John Cage’s personal collection of conch shells at Carnegie Hall. Their forthcoming album Ultimate Care II perfectly reveals their artistry; they made it entirely out of the sounds generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model washing machine in the basement of their home in Baltimore, Maryland. Harvesting the machine’s rich vocabulary of rhythmic chugs, spin cycle drones, rinse cycle splashes, metallic clanks and electronic beeps, Matmos have crafted a work of sly humor in which one of the quintessential sounds of everyday life is transformed into an unlikely source for a surprisingly listenable suite of music. Thrill Jockey Records will release Ultimate Care II on February 19, 2016.
Ultimate Care II is an encounter with the unrealized possibilities of domesticity. Like its namesake, the album runs across its variations as a single, continuous thirty-eight minute experience that starts with the grinding turn of the wash size selection wheel, and ends with the alert noise that signals that the wash is done. Between these audio-verité bookends, the listener experiences an exploded view of the machine, hearing it in normal operation, but also as an object being rubbed and stroked and drummed upon and prodded and sampled and sequenced and processed by the duo, with some occasional extra help from an ultra-local cast of guest stars (some of whom regularly do laundry at Matmos’ home). Dan Deacon, Max Eilbacher (Horse Lords), Sam Haberman (Horse Lords), Jason Willett (Half Japanese), and Duncan Moore (Needle Gun) all took part, either playing the machine like a drum, processing its audio, or sending MIDI data to the duo’s samplers. The result is a suite of rhythmic, melodic and drone-based compositions that morph dramatically, but remain fanatically centered upon their single, original sound source.
The palette of genres in play reveals Matmos’ hybrid musical DNA: industrial music, vogue beats, gabber, Miami bass, free jazz, house, krautrock, drone, musique-concrete, and new age music all churn up to the surface and are sucked back into the depths. In this moiré pattern of textures, the listener encounters elements that sound like horns, kick drums, xylophones or sine waves, but in fact each component is meticulously crafted out of a manipulated sample of the machine. In other hands, such relentless conceptual tightness would court claustrophobia. Happily, Matmos’ willingness to transform audio and engage pop structure bypasses arid, arty thought exercises and produces instead their signature effect: abject and unusual noises yielding weirdly pleasurable music.
The duo knows how to rein back the processing too. In its starkest passage, the listener hears the rinse cycle of the machine run uninterruptedly for four minutes as a slow filter sweep combs across the oceanic frequency range. The result is a kind of “Environments” LP that never was: the Psychologically Ultimate Washing Machine. It’s a gesture likely to infuriate some people and tantalize others. Is this the conceptualist emperor’s new clothes, a wistful domestic reverie, a parody of recent moves in “object oriented” philosophy, a feminist point about alienated domestic labor, an elegy to a discontinued model that stands in for unsustainable and water-wasteful technologies generally, or simply an immersion in the beauty of the noises of everyday life? Sucker-punching ambient pastoral, the album ends with a techno-industrial-booty bass workout that recapitulates motifs from across the entire composition before grinding to a halt, its task completed. Ultimate Care II swirls with perverse paradox: it is at once funny and sad, bouncy and creepy, liquid and mechanical.
In a visual analogue to the recording process, the artwork for the album is constructed entirely out of photographs of the machine in question, shot in its natural habitat and then digitally manipulated by New York artist Ted Mineo. Lending trunk-rattling low end and sharp high frequencies, Rashad Becker mastered the album at D&M in Berlin. San Francisco motion graphics firm L-inc, who created the “Very Large Green Triangles” video for Matmos’ last album, The Marriage of True Minds, are creating a video to accompany Ultimate Care II.
A work of intricate sampling techniques and labor-intensive post-production might seem impossible to perform live. Furthermore, as a rule of thumb, water and electricity don’t mix. Yet, in the spring of 2016, Matmos will attempt to stage the work in select U.S. cities. As a concert experience that celebrates homely materials with high-tech processing, Ultimate Care II promises to be the ultimate expression of Matmos’ dedication to the audiovisual potential of objects.