Matmos: The Ganzfeld EP (and Incase headphones)

I will not pretend to understand the concept behind The Ganzfeld EP, electronic duo Matmos’ upcoming release, but I will simply say that I dig it, deeply. From the press release, because I can’t say it any better:

The EP and the album [The Marriage of True Minds, available early 2013] have the same conceptual basis: telepathy.


For the past four years the band have been conducting parapsychological experiments based upon the classic Ganzfeld (“total field”) experiment, but with a twist: instead of sending and receiving simple graphic patterns, test subjects were put into a state of sensory deprivation by covering their eyes and listening to white noise on headphones, and then Matmos member Drew Daniel attempted to transmit “the concept of the new Matmos record” directly into their minds. During videotaped psychic experiments conducted at home in Baltimore and at Oxford University, test subjects were asked to describe out loud anything they saw or heard within their minds as Drew attempted transmission. The resulting transcripts became a kind of score that was then used by Matmos to generate music. If a subject hummed something, that became a melody; passing visual images suggested arrangement ideas, instruments, or raw materials for a collage; if a subject described an action, then the band members had to act that out and make music out of the noises generated in the process of the re-enactment.

The result, to which I am now listening and which is in turn driving me crazy, is perhaps the greatest work I’ve heard from Matmos—and that’s saying a lot, as Matmos generally blows my mind.

“Very Large Green Triangles” is a soaring, orchestral dance track with electronically manipulated voices forming a mind-twisting, psychedelic experience. Bells erupt from the speakers and ring in your ears. But in a nice way. “You,” remixed by RRose, is less forward, but no less intense, stretching out Carly Ptak’s whispered vocals and combining them with an amplified rubber band, for a deep, throbbing house track. But most delirious is the closer, 12-minute long “Just Waves,” which combines the voices of Matmos’ M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel with those of electronic composer Dan Deacon, Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors), and Clodagh Simonds (Fovea Hex), and adds warm, bell-like synthesizer and organ.

Eyes are bulging; hearts are beating; black and white shapes are forming, blinking, spiraling; I see something over my head; in my imagination; a circle, a triangle; just waves, just waves, just waves. This is some serious Arnold Schoenberg / Brian Eno / Gordon Mumma wackiness. In fact, from the press release again:

Singing the transcripts of psychic experiments in pitched clusters of monotone Sprechstimme, reminiscent of the avant-garde “tele-operas” of American minimalist composer Robert Ashley, phrases recur and coalesce into a gradually emerging chord progression.

I love it, I hate it, I don’t know what to do with it. It’s silly, maddening, and surprisingly beautiful. I want you to hear it, too.

Thrill Jockey will release The Ganzfeld EP on CD ($10) and LP ($13) on October 16. But that’s not all: Thrill Jockey has partnered with design company Incase to release “a limited edition of The Ganzfeld EP that recreates the perceptual circumstances and sensory experiences of the first test subjects in the original Ganzfeld experiment.” Limited to 600 copies, vinyl packages will include the EP, pressed on virgin vinyl, with Incase Sonic headphones, a download coupon, sticker, a signed and numbered Ganzfeld certificate, and custom goggles ($80); or all of the above with Incase’s Reflex headphones ($60).

Audiophiles probably already have their own headphones (and goggles?), but these packages are cool nonetheless. Matmos albums always sound great on the hi-fi, and I suspect The Ganzfeld EP will be sonically superb—it sounds damn good and exciting even through my crappy computer speakers.

If you just can’t wait until October 16th, you can catch Matmos live on September 13th, at Ram’s Head, in Baltimore, MD, or in New York, on September 14th, at Death by Audio, and September 15th, at Webster Hall. These shows are part of Thrill Jockey’s 20th Anniversary celebration, and will be appropriately awesome. If you’re attending one of the NYC shows, you can pre-order your copy of The Ganzfeld EP and pick it up at the venue.

Dooooooooo it. You deserve it.

sommovigo's picture

You might be interested in Koestler's "The Roots of Coincidence"

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks for the recommendation, Chris. I'll check it out. Fun topic!

John Atkinson's picture

All I have of Matmos in my collection is their collaboration with Bjork on her Live at The Royal Opera House DVD. Obviously I need to get out more :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

funambulistic's picture

I got the LP package because (1) I love limted editions (2) I plan on getting a turntable sometime in the future - it has been too long and (3) I have suddenly become a headphone junky.

The download of the EP is just as you described. I love freakin' bizarre music, but track 3 still is taking some time to get into. If the full release is along the lnes of the first two tracks, I will certanly get a copy.

The headphones themselves are a pleasant surprise: very, very, VERY comfortable with a lively, fun sound. The treble is a bit tipped up, but they add life to Pandora or SOMA FM. A very good work or about town 'phone.

Thanks for the recommendation!

PS - for a truly mind bending experience, see if you can get a copy of Time Machines by members of Coil. Each track is the name of a hallucinogenic drug and you will trip!