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 So 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 Bjork, 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 So 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.
Matmos and So Percussion have both distinguished themselves by hearing music where others didn't. So Percussion are devoted to contemporary classical music written for percussion, a slender, under-explored niche that they have proven to contain revelations. Matmos, the partnership of Martin Schmidt and former Pitchfork contributor Drew Daniel, have always heard symphonies in life's smallest details, sampling things like thawing streams and liposuction vacuums and building busy pop tapestries out of them. Together, they have performed off and on for a number of years, and it's easy to see, when they are together onstage, what these two curious, highly specialized sensibilities found attractive in each other. Treasure State is the group's first collaboration on record, and the good news is that they have achieved a sort of mind meld between their two approaches.Treasure State is a bit more straightforward. Billed as a 'representation of an American landscape'-- Montana, in this case, where the album was recorded, and whose official nickname gives the album its title-- Treasure State consists of eight tactile miniatures exploring the timbre of a series of materials. There seems to be no higher agenda at work than to discover how different objects sound when they are clonked with mallets or scratched or rubbed together, and this makes for an absorbing and refreshingly visceral listening experience.
Both Matmos and So Percussion share an uncanny ear for textures, and on Treasure State, it is nearly impossible to separate out where one group's contributions begin and the other's end-- it all coalesces into an engaging swirl of pinprick detail. 'Treasure', the opening track, begins with some clear, ringing chimes, reminiscent of the gamelan music of composer Lou Harrison, before a wave of rustling noises slowly overtakes it. Trying to identify all those noises, or figure out whence they came, would be like trying to catalogue the species of insects in a rainforest with your eyes closed. The music works best when you just let the confounding clatter just wash over you. --Pitchfork
The Best Experimental Music of 2010: So Percussion and Matmos's collaborative album Treasure State may perhaps prove to be the record on this list that swerves closest toward something resembling a pop sensibility. It might also simultaneously prove to be the most twisted and downright quirky in both its conception and execution.
Treasure State is decorated with a staggering array of colorful instruments, ranging from steel drums and other mallets, to a combination of horns, along with inventive usage of splashing water and vibrating cactus quills (see below). All of the sounds are then integrated seamlessly with the strategic knob twisting and electronic beat convulsions that Matmos is known for. A proper explanation of the production process that ultimately yielded Treasure State is impossible here due to the utter complexity of both the initial recording sessions with Matmos and So Percussion and the post-production layering provided by Matmos collaborator Wobbly and So Percussion producer Lawson White. But a quick glimpse into their studio setup leaves no doubt that Treasure State is an experiment in not just a musical sense, but also technological.
This is more than likely a one-off release that is totally unique and an incredible example of the synergistic possibilities that open-minded collaborations enable. Treasure State is a unique snapshot of both Matmos and So Percussion, two groups that seem to be on a never-ending upward creative trajectory. --PopMatters, Louis Battaglia, December 2010