Published Aug 17, 2020The concept seems simple: ask 99 potential collaborators to contribute sounds, with any rhythmic content pinned at 99 bpm. Yet the resultant 3-hour-long opus – meant to be absorbed in one sitting – is anything but straightforward. With The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form, Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt have produced their most ambitious and eclectic piece of work yet.
Sampling a short list of the pair's collaborators might prepare folks for the wide-ranging and brilliant nature of this magnum opus. Daniel and Schmidt started by enlisting long-time pals such as J Lesser and Wobbly. Widening the circle a bit, they enlisted the skills of electronic contemporaries such as Max Tundra, Mouse on Mars, Rabit and DeForrest Brown, Jr. Throwing caution to the wind, they eschewed genre and asked Yo La Tengo, David Grubbs and John Elliott (of Emeralds) to join in.
Diving deep underground, the pair wrangled content from brain melting noise makers (Id M Theft Able), "new music" composers (Sarah Hennies), and even contemporary authors (Douglas Rushkoff). Like master puppeteers. Daniel and Schmidt sliced and diced the sounds they received, added more field recordings, samples and sounds, and worked the gelatinous mass of audio into The Consuming Flame.
Listening to the entire recording from end to end in a single sitting is a daunting task, especially in this age of shrinking attention spans and the digital pachinko offered by the ever-present smartphone. But there are so many moments of clarity offered by The Consuming Flame that it's probably best for the listener to put their music player on repeat mode and allow it to be their life's soundtrack.
At turns groovy (the dank psych rock of "Adam's Apple"), cerebral (the faulty heartbeat and rubbery electronics of "Cold Open"), and downright confounding (the digital argumentation, whimsical honking and yodelling of "I'm Fine I'm Fine"), The Consuming Flame is Matmos at their finest. Daniel and Schmidt have taken the simplest of concepts and manipulated it into a gorgeous and grotesque beast of an album. (Thrill Jockey)