PxPixel
So Percussion and Matmos, on the Poetics of Processing - EMusician

So Percussion and Matmos, on the Poetics of Processing

A collaborative project by electronic pop duo Matmos and New York’s avant-classical ensemble So Percussion, Treasure State [Cantaloupe] is so jampacked with compositional and engineering processes that even Matmos’ M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel scratch their heads about the methodology of its creation.
Author:
Publish date:

A collaborative project by electronic pop duo Matmos and New York’s avant-classical ensemble So Percussion, Treasure State [Cantaloupe] is so jampacked with compositional and engineering processes that even Matmos’ M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel scratch their heads about the methodology of its creation.

So Percussion and Matmos (left to right)—Drew Daniel, M.C. Schmidt, Adam Silwinski, LawsonWhite, Josh Quillen, and Jason Treuting.

Matmos joined So Percussion at producer Brett Allen’s SnowGhost Studios in Whitefish, Montana, for a series of studies focusing on the musical potentials of elementary materials such as ceramic planters, pails of water, and aluminum beer cans. The tracks generated at SnowGhost were subsequently diced and spliced by San Francisco plunderphonic-ist Wobbly, and Schmidt and So Percussion’s Lawson White overdubbed other instruments and sounds, then processed and mixed the results.

So Percussion (left to right)—Adam Silwinski, Jason Treuting, Josh Quillen, and Eric Beach.

The tantalizingly trippy end product came about through the interface of odd sound samples and even odder post-production choices. The glitchy funk of “Cross” has some surprising sources. “I took a bunch of distorted recordings of swing and big-band drumming,” Daniel says, “and then I viciously EQ’d and exaggerated all the pops and dropouts that the vinyl transferred, hence there’s barely any of the swing left.” Daniel used Cycling ’74 Max/MSP software to draw out previously unheard sonorities from the vinyl tracks.

Much of the Matmos portion of the material was generated live with Daniel’s E-mu e6400 sampler, with live- and post-processing via Ableton Live and MOTU Digital Performer. On “Needles,” So Percussion played a cactus, amplified with a Barcus Berry transducer contact mic. As the group hit the cactus needles, the signal was sent to Brett Allen, who processed the output with a harmonizer. Daniel then took the harmonized signal, chopped it up, created samples, sequenced them into MIDI, and sent the parts to different sounds.

The dense sonics of “Cross” derive from real kit drums, handclaps, multiple guitar layers, and the cries of a hunting call that Schmidt bought at a sporting goods shop in Montana. “It’s supposed to imitate two female elks in estrus, fighting for the attention of the male,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a double-reed thing where you can’t play the same pitch on the two reeds simultaneously, so they’re constantly doing these sort of frequency modulation bends back and forth.”

After Wobbly built the assembled birdcalls into a solo, says Daniel, “it sounded like Rahsaan Roland Kirk records being playing backwards in a blender.”