Followers of San Francisco electronic duo Matmos will be well aware of their love of concept above all else. This was best exemplified by 2016’s Ultimate Care II, a wildly experimental album crafted entirely from the sounds of a washing machine. To the faithless, such a concept would immediately come off as a gimmick or a cheap statement to grab attention, however, Matmos create magic from the mundane – a powerful statement that music can be found wherever one searches. This is taken to a whole other level on Plastic Anniversary, nearly an hour of work crafted entirely from plastic material.
Music too often is burdened with some apparent necessity to be organic, as if that is the only means of reaching an audience. It is because of this idea that plastic, synonymous with artificiality, is an obvious choice for the group to retool into art. The real beauty of Matmos’ concept is that the music itself stands strong regardless of their material choice. The composition is not contingent on the plastic, and it flows so seamlessly that it would be impossible to know the concept without looking for it. Every element of a conventional track is replicated with plastic, from the driving percussion of ‘The Singing Tube,’ to the immensely emotional strings of the title track, on which the plastic seems even able to recreate a haunting vocal sample.
It is particularly fitting that plastic of all substances is elevated to this artistic level given the state of the climate. While Matmos make no overt political statements, any listener is forced to reconcile the juxtaposition of plastic as a thing of beauty and as an existential threat to humanity which we know it to be. It speaks volumes about the power of this record that it has the ability to reconcile these seemingly opposite truths.
The power of Matmos above all else is to see opportunity where others see limitations. Lesser artists would feel trapped by the concepts the duo tie themselves to – an immense artistic restriction that shuns the trappings of conventional music. Matmos, however, thrive on this.
Never gimmicky, always pushing the seemingly rigid boundaries they set themselves, no group truly makes listeners question the concept of music like Matmos.
Image: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons