HELP US KEEP REPORTING. DONATE TO ORLANDO WEEKLY PRESS CLUB.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

HOT AIR ACES

Electronic masters ditch the concepts, break out the Nintendos

Posted on Thu, May 1, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Supreme Balloon
Label: Matador
Length: LP
Rated: NONE
Media: CD
WorkNameSort: Supreme Balloon

The scuttlebutt on Supreme Balloon – the latest sack of double-click ear candy from electronic whizzes Matmos – is that there’s no highfalutin underlying concept. Since Matmos’ mid-’90s inception, professional and romantic cohorts Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt have tarted up their compositions with various left-field bric-a-brac: sounds of human skin burning, dogs barking, fat being extracted surgically, rats rattling cages, bovine organs being manipulated and so on. To experience 2001’s A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, ’03’s The Civil War or their last outing, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast, is to be riveted on both pop and contemplative levels, forced to consider music’s alternative textures. The emphasis on dissertation-ready tropes befits these hip academics: Daniel is an assistant English professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, while Schmidt works at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Balloon, however, is an exuberant celebration of dinky ol’ vintage synthesizers, a buoyant carnival holiday. On “Rainbow Flag,” their machines are luridly swank in a Star Trek/Jetsons way, revisiting a dusty mid-20th-century futurism that seems camp now. Tones pulse, whisper, poke and evaporate like cogs in some gyrating Willy Wonka contraption, implying tireless efficiency, swirling cosmic gases and conga-line merriment. Bouncier and more deliberate, “Polychords” presents a piping assembly-line strut, determined worker notes banging down neon tracks – until the proceedings suddenly descend into starched-out subterranean electro-funk, only to loop back to the tune’s earlier, unflappable pep. On “Exciter Lamp,” a tactical swarm of pops, clops and petulant plinks builds up to the sort of money shot video-gamers of a certain age will appreciate: a bleep-bloop geyser that saturates the sonic field, as if Schmidt and Daniel were playing Super Mario Brothers 3 and happened upon a magic mushroom that refused to quit granting coins and 1UPs.

There is a concept here, after all: giddiness, elation and ecstatic joy. A lumbering, quaint cover of “Les Folies Francaises,” by French composer Francois Couperin, punctures the mood, so to speak, but it’s over quickly.

If you need confirmation of Balloon’s subtle thesis, spend some time with the 20-minute-plus title track, an Epcot-sized pocket of gathering synth helium. Clipped phaser segues, teeter-tottering rushes, rippling beelines and tremulous quasars brush past one another over a substratum drone; it’s Matmos’ Stockhausen tribute and Krautrock salute wrapped up in a single knee-weakening package, a spiritual cousin to Sonic Youth’s classic “The Diamond Sea.” Daniel and Schmidt have always been interesting; now we know they’re equally capable of fun.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues

Calendar

© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation