batu malablab

m.c. schmidt

knock'em dead records

2015 LP


“The debut solo LP from M.C. Schmidt, one half of the duo Matmos, is so full of odds and ends that listening to it initially feels like watching a stranger empty her junk drawer. But over time, patterns emerge, and the results announce Schmidt as a collagist force in his own right.” — Pitchfork

...a dislocating magic, indulging in a tradition of western fantasy of non-western music” — Forced Exposure


According to musician/author Michael Tenzer in Balinese Gamelan Music, the term "Batu Malablab" is a Balinese pejorative that’s "typically hurled at unprepared musicians." Tenzer goes on to break down the etymology: "Batu means rock or stone, and malablab is the active form of the incisively onamonopedic verb ‘to boil.’ A gamelan deserving of the sobriquet ‘boiling rock’ is likely going nowhere fast." It’s tempting to assume that by adopting this phrase as the title of his debut solo LP, M.C. Schmidt is essentially taking the piss, making an esoteric jibe at himself. Yet there’s precedent: while an intellectual rigor informs Matmos, the Baltimore-based electronic duo Schmidt operates with bandmate/partner Drew Daniel, a playfully self-deprecating streak runs through the group’s public and recorded personas.
Recorded live at a series of locations by Schmidt, Due Process’ Thomas Dimuzio, Jon "Wobbly" Leidecker, and others, Batu Malablab has a "magic eye" quality, in the sense that initially listening to it is like watching a stranger empty her junk drawer. There are so many sonic odds and ends present, unleashed with what seems like such a gleeful disdain for compositional Western structure, that the impulse is to throw up one’s hands and surrender. Surrender often enough, though, and patterns emerge, seams begin to show.

There’s a loose, off-the-cuff vibe to these proceedings that’s worlds apart from Matmos’ sample-pasted, referent-laden grooves, or the metal and punk covers Daniel retools in his Soft Pink Truth guise. A tangle of gong- and chime-like sounds inaugurates "Lowland Side", giving way to bass tones and re-emerging later among scurrying flutes. Prepared piano figures and mysterious scraps of percussion peek out of the humid gloom, then disappear into it, punctuated by occasional bird call samples. Somewhere along the line, the players glide into a peculiar species of out music, with a bass solo accompanying sounds that resemble a mechanic rummaging furtively through tools, bolts, and screws, eventually supplanted by a spine-tingling choir. It’s a fascinating, almost mystic pile-up: elements of Eastern and American Indian music mingling for cocktails, then taking in a musique concrète set.
Less plainly predetermined than thrillingly accidental, Batu Malablab seems, at times, comprised of desperate misadventures.  Even when the recording does find its footing, the clamor retains a hint of streamlined anarchy that is, in its odd way, downright meditative: a rattling, seething ambience that quotes a number of genres—New Age, opera, world music, assorted species of avant-garde that Sonic Youthcelebrated on Goodbye 20th Century—without being fully in thrall to any of them. Think a more omnivorous, porous take on The Carl Stalling Project.

Over the 39 minutes, segues and splashes accrue, evoking a din that is either felt or heard depending on the listener’s attention level at the time. Either way, when those final notes sound and the record cuts out, the resulting silence seems emptier than when it began. That’s no small feat, and Batu Malablab announces Schmidt as a collagist force in his own right.—Raymond Cummings

Forced Exposure

LP version. Based in Baltimore, M.C. Schmidt is one half of the acclaimed electronic duo Matmos. As half of Matmos, Schmidt has worked with Terry Riley, Björk, Kronos Quartet, Peter Rehberg, INA-GRM, Rrose, Marshall Allen, Horse Lords, People Like Us, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Antony Hegarty, William Basinski, and many more. Batu Malablab, his first solo album, works a dislocating magic, indulging in a tradition of western fantasy of non-western music. Recalling gamelan-inspired experimental classics such as John Cage's prepared piano work, Can's "Ethnological Forgery Series," and Jon Hassell's "Fourth World" ambient music (GB 019CD/LP), Batu Malablab is imaginary global music made in the Baltimore basement studio pictured on the back of the album. Features appearances by Wobbly and Thomas Dimuzio.