Conceptual art and electronic duo Matmos have played the uterus and reproductive tract of a cow, conch shells at Carnegie Hall, and opened for Björk on canisters of helium. Their newest album is made up exclusively of sounds generated by a washing machine in the basement of their home in Baltimore. The result is Ultimate Care II what the band calls “a surprisingly listenable suite of music” made by “harvesting the machine’s rich vocabulary of rhythmic chugs, spin cycle drones, rise cycle splashes, metallic clanks and electronic beeps.”
The conceptual meaning of the work is up for interpretation. It is at once humorous and playful but at times eerie and lonely. The album mirrors the washing machine experience in that it lasts 38 minutes that begins with the turn of the wash size selection wheel and ends with the familiar ding of a completed wash cycle. Everything in between is made up of processed samples of the machine being drummed on, rubbed, and prodded, and of course doing the washing.
The duo poses this most existential question: “Is this the conceptualist emperor’s new clothes, a wistful domestic reverie, a parody of recent moves in “object oriented” philosophy, a feminist point about alienated domestic labor, an elegy to a discontinued model that stands in for unsustainable and water-wasteful technologies generally, or simply an immersion in the beauty of the noises of everyday life?”
Ultimately, it is a piece of music that utilizes the artists’ signature skill: creating unusual sounds with unusual materials that ends up sounding really very good.
Ulitmate Care II will be released by Thrill Jockey Records on February 19, 2016. It was made with the help of guest stars Dan Deacon, Max Eilbacher, Sam Haberman (Horse Lords), Jason Willett (Half Japanese), and Duncan Moore (Needle Gun). Matmos hopes to stage the work live in select U.S. cities in the spring of 2016. Pre-order it here. More information on Matmos on their website.