In a slight variation on the old pop-Zen koan, what is the sound of three electronic musicians group-improvising? The query arises from a listen to a recently posted live trio set by Matmos (aka Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt) and Keith Fullerton Whitman (MP3). Given that any laptop worth its chipset can multitask (er, multitrack) at the gesture of a mouse or the click of a button, how does one discern who is up to what when three individuals funnel their sound files into a single stream?
As always, Whitman is ready with some descriptive phrases himself, referring to the MP3 quarter-jokingly as a “mega-collaboration” in a note to his email-announcement list: “it’s a big mess of clicky stereo freakouts,” he writes, “wandering sub-bass, muttered vocal-drones, atonal bleeps, completely gorgeous filtered drones, zonked modular-synth, and musique concrÃ¨te with a nice almost berlin-school ending worthy of 32:05 of your time.” Still, for all those specifics, it doesn’t quite hammer home who is doing what over the course of that half hour. As with any koan, of course, the answer is in the question. What distinguishes the track is precisely how ambiguous the interplay is, especially as it gathers coherence, closing in an expanding rainbow of burr-laced consonance (that’s the “berlin-school” feel to which Whitman alludes).
The file was first made available as a podcast courtesy of dublab.com, which even in the broad field of vaguely avant-podcasts (out-casts?) has a particularly stellar catalog, including previous entries by folk-drone hero Greg Davis (a frequent Whitman collaborator), slapdash hip-hop maven Daedelus and the thrifty tinkerers in the Books. More info on the musicians at brainwashed.com/matmos and keithfullertonwhitman.com.