So Percussion and Matmos – Treasure State

Matmos and So Percussion in Studio 360

“But the attraction here, and the unifying undercurrent, is the combined group’s constantly shifting, variegated texture. Its instrumentation includes typewriter, amplified cactus, fish toy, animal sounds, splashing water and paper being crinkled, along with guitars, trumpets, So’s percussion instruments and Matmos’s samplers and synthesizers. The works’ thematic cells may catch the ear. But it is the arrangement and imaginative juxtaposition of familiar instrumental timbres with splashing, crinkling and other exotic noises that makes these pieces so irresistible and entrancing.”

—The New York Times

Long in the making, Treasure State is a startling collaboration between two rogue American groups: Known for playing the music of Steve Reich, David Lang, and Paul Lansky, Brooklyn-based quartet Sō Percussion are acknowledged virtuoso performers of classical and avant-garde writing for percussion, and are increasingly recognized as composers in their own right. Musique-concrete oddballs brought into the mainstream by their collaboration with Björk, Baltimorean electronic duo Matmos are infamous for turning bizarre sound sources (from plastic surgery to live snails) into shuffling rhythmic pop.

Bridging the gap from the conservatory to the laptop screen, these groups share a love of propulsive musical experiment. The resulting collaborative album is a checkerboard of Matmos and Sō Percussion compositions, but in each case these ensembles have reinforced each other’s techniques and methodologies. The core of the record is a series of studies of the musical resources of everyday and not-so-everyday elemental materials: ceramic planters, pails of water, aluminum beer cans, cactus needles, cans of house paint. The result is a richly diverse yet highly listenable record that flows across a range of genres, sound sources, objects and styles to create an elemental American landscape.