Review: Matmos’s The Ganzfeld EP

Matmos: The Ganzfeld EPMatmos: The Ganzfeld EP (Thrill Jockey, 10/16/12)

“Very Large Green Triangles”

Matmos: “Very Large Green Triangles”

You’re in a chair, wearing headphones, with white noise hissing fuzzily at you from either side. Ping-pong balls have been scissored in half and set over your eyes, with a purplish light beaming at you from just inches away. You can’t see. You are told that the experiment will last 30 minutes. It may not work.

This is a typical ganzfeld setup, “ganzfeld” being a German phrase that roughly means “entire world” as well as the name of a new EP by Baltimore-based experimenters Matmos. For parapsychologists, a ganzfeld experiment is used to test extrasensory perception, or ESP. For MC Schmidt and Drew Daniel, the two-man team running the Matmos show, the goal was to communicate the concept of the next Matmos album. (The EP is a prelude to a full-length that uses the same method.) Anything spoken or hummed or described by the test subjects became part of the music.

So what does it sound like? It depends on the track, of which there are only three. “Just Waves” is the song that takes the experiment most seriously. A small roster of vocalists, including Schmidt and Daniel as well as Dan Deacon, Dirty Projectors Angel Deradoorian, and Fovea Hex’s Clodagh Simonds, speak-sing excerpts from the purportedly telepathic transcript. The track begins with a monotone male voice, joined by a female, and then someone else, and so on, eventually joined by synths and organ, and occasionally merging into harmonies as the recitations settle into a trance-like chant. “Very Large Green Triangles” is more accessible, a three-and-a-half-minute electronic piece with dense strings and a pulsing dance beat.

As a collection of songs, The Ganzfeld EP requires a unique brand of curiosity. As an idea, it’s brilliant. The full-length will be an even weirder blend of danceable esoterica. We can feel it.