Closer in spirit to the American indie underground than the U.K.-dominated electronic music scene of the late '90s, Matmos was one of the era's more unlikely left-field electronic acts.
Drew Daniel and Martin C. Schmidt's microscopic abuse of sourcings as varied as freshly cut hair, the amplified neural activity of crayfish, washing machines, and the human voice (along with a few synthesizers and drum machines) was instantly distinguishing, and created a niche for their music that endured for decades.
Matmos began as a long-distance tape exchange project while Kentucky native Daniel (who was also affiliated with the Rodan/Rachel's precursor King G & the J Crew in the early '90s) was living in London. Schmidt was a founding member of avant-garde electronic group X/I and worked with San Francisco-based experimental music collective IAO Core alongside members of groups such as Amber Asylum and Tipsy; he also co-managed the San Francisco Art Institute's New Genres department. The pair settled in the City by the Bay as Daniel pursued his Ph.D. Matmos' 1997 self-titled debut, which they released on their own Vague Terrain label, won fans of the Autechre/Aphex/µ-Ziq ilk. Two more albums, 1998's Quasi-Objects and the following year's The West, which transformed acoustic instruments ranging from violin to Jew's harp into bubbling electro-funk, followed soon after. Matmos signed to Matador Records, which issued the plastic surgery-sampling A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure in 2001. For 2003's The Civil War, the duo took inspiration from medieval music and 19th century American folk, while the following year's Rat Relocation Program further reconfigured samples that were used on A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. Matmos also worked with Björk, in the studio and on tour, on her albums Vespertine and Medúlla. She returned the favor by appearing on their 2006 album The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast, a collection of "audio portraits" that also included cameos by Antony of Antony and the Johnsons and Kalonica McQuesten. After relocating to Baltimore, Daniel and Schmidt moved in a purely electronic direction for 2008's The Supreme Balloon, which was crafted entirely out of vintage synthesizers and featured the Sun Ra Arkestra's Marshall Allen and Keith Fullerton Whitman among their collaborators. That year, they also worked with Lesser and Wobbly on a series of improvised recordings made for Hollow Earth Internet Radio that ultimately became the 2010 album Simultaneous Quodlibet, then worked with So Percussion on that year's Treasure State. The duo contributed remixes to Jefferson Friedman: Quartets as performed by the Chiara String Quartet in 2011. The following year, it was announced that Matmos had moved to the Thrill Jockey label, which released The Ganzfeld EP -- a set of songs inspired by telepathy -- that October. The full-length The Marriage of True Minds, which expanded on this concept, arrived in early 2013. For 2016's Ultimate Care II, Schmidt and Daniel sampled sounds from their washing machine, augmenting them with contributions from Dan Deacon, Half Japanese's Jason Willett, and members of Horse Lords. ~ Heather Phares & Sean Cooper, Rovi