Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: April 2016

The latest releases from Matmos, Great American Canyon Band, and Horse Lords.

Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey Records)

You know the routine: throw in your clothes, add detergent, pick the cycle, crank the knob. Soon the water fills the basin and the low, heavy, seaside swish-swash builds as your clothes begin to wash. It’s so familiar you almost don’t hear it, but now the local experimental electronic duo Matmos—famed for using mixed mediums, unusual instruments, and synthesized soundscapes—has taken this part of your everyday life and turned it into an entire album—their ninth. This isn’t the first time that Martin “M.C.” Schmidt and Drew Daniel have pushed traditional instruments aside for more unusual sources, like balloons, insects, cigarettes, playing cards, whoopee cushions, and oatmeal. Now, their very own washing machine becomes the star of the show, and right before your ears, this ordinary object comes to artistic life. As the water falls, you drift into a magnitude of imaginary underworlds, swinging between tumbling tribal safaris, fiery abysses, and the twinkling cosmos. Across 38 minutes, the sounds evolve into an avant-garde symphony—and a mesmerizing feat. You’ll never look at laundry the same way again.

See our interview with musicians M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel of Matmos.

Great American Canyon Band
Only You Remain (Six Degrees Records)

With spring finally upon us, there’s no better time than now to throw a duffle in the trunk and take to the open road. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, but, as this young indie-folk group teaches us through its debut album, what matters is the journey. The band began in 2011 with husband and wife Paul and Kris Masson, who cut across the country in search of a new home. As they drove from coast to coast in their old ’82 Mercedes named Dolly (as in Parton), quietly discovering the American landscape and reflecting on the horizon, they distilled their adventures into music. Rich in reverb, full of hearty harmonies and dreamy melodies, you feel like you’re right alongside them, barreling down some desert highway, standing under a moonlit sky, or admiring the sun at dawn. Now settled in Baltimore, the couple has brought on two more bandmates who play guitar and drums to round out their earthy, Americana sound. It’s made for dreamers, be they on city streets or country roads.

Horse Lords
Interventions (Northern Spy Records)

Since 2012, Horse Lords has been a band to watch in Baltimore. The local experimental quartet makes intricate, instrumental grooves that ramble off into sprawling, ambitious jams. Like some wild, wayward thing, each song uses singular sounds that build and morph and combust into something uniquely minimalist yet complex. They defy genre, though we called their last album, Hidden Cities, a “No Wave/Fela [Kuti] mash-up.” Much of this third album stays true to that funky, foraging approach, like the first track, “Truthers.” But then the band also takes some surprise turns. At times, it reaches rich, guttural depths with songs like “Bending to the Lash” and “Time Slip;” at others it tweaks out into strange terrains during intermittent interludes called “Interventions.” Somehow throughout, the band manages to maintain its trademark momentum while simultaneously smashing any potential for categorization on its head. So we stand by our words: Horse Lords is a Baltmore band to watch. We’re excited to see what they come up with next.