Release Date: May 6, 2008
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental
"No microphones were used on this album," state the liner notes of The Supreme Balloon. That would be a pretty bold statement for a lot of artists, but it's an especially striking one for Matmos, who have taken recording normally non-musical sounds and then reconfiguring and recontextualizing them to an exquisite level. That may be exactly why Drew Daniel and Martin C.
Those familiar with Matmos know they're not so much prone to making concept albums as they are to making high-concept albums. Their last effort (2006's The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast) was a set of “audio biographies” of ten of the duo's intellectual influences, and some of the samples created for that album would necessitate articles of their own to explain their relevance to that theme (for example, how a sample of a cow's reproductive system relates to feminist essayist Valerie Solanas). For Supreme Balloon, Matmos have chosen a much simpler concept: It was recorded using only vintage synthesizers, with no laptop wizardry involved.
Matmos’s career up to now has leaned heavily on concept-driven sample-based music. So why have they decided to use only synthesizers on this release and forgo their usual academic ideas in favour of a tribute to antique electronics? Well, everyone needs a change once in a while, but that’s a pretty lightweight concept compared to the gay outlaw theme of their last release. The liner notes explain that the O Canada quote in Exciter Lamp And The Variable Band is a reference to artist Norman McLaren, but much of their bubbly futuristic synth music goes no deeper than what you’d hear in old TV Ontario science shows.
Matmos’ Supreme Balloon, the duo’s seventh full-length release, comes not with the expected list of bizarre samples that have traditionally been contained in their albums over the past ten years, but rather with these seven words: “No microphones were used on this album. ” Though every disc Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt have managed in their time together has been marked by a drastic detour from its predecessor, the use of microphones in generating odd-job samples has been the binding agent that enforced some measure of cohesion from album to successive album. Thus, while 2001’s A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure dealt in plastic surgery sonics and 2006’s The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast approached a series of seemingly disparate character sketches, the subject matter was always handled through the same approach – samples, ranging from forehead lifts and nose jobs to covert sex acts and Daniel’s own tormented howl while having his flesh burned, twisted and mutated to fit Matmos’ thematic treatise of the moment.
For more than a decade, Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt have been taking electronica for a joyride. They’ve sampled liposuction slurp and bone-crushing crunch for use as dance rhythms. They’ve manipulated banjo, sewer pipes, steel guitar and outdoor ambience. Supreme Balloon is a synthesizer album in the strictest sense.