Influenced more by beetles than the Beatles, the Baltimore-based duo Matmos have been underground electronic music's arch conceptualists for nearly 30 years. Every album they release revolves around a different framing idea and consequently, every tour they do presents different approaches and vocabularies of sounds.

Their latest LP, 2023's Return to Archive, finds Matmos repurposing Smithsonian Folkways' vast catalog of nature, science, and field recordings, and what the group's Drew Daniel calls "unclassifiably odd audio verité recordings" into discombobulated cuts that would have left late label founder Moses Asch spluttering in confusion. It was an adventurous way for a venerated company to celebrate its 75th anniversary, to be sure.

Aptly enough, the college lecture hall vibe of Here-After was ideal for a Matmos show. And the duo—Daniel and Martin Schmidt—looked like archetypal professors in their tweed jackets and spectacles. (When they're not musicking, in fact, Daniel teaches Shakespeare at Johns Hopkins University and Schmidt instructs on music technology at JHU's Peabody Institute.)

"Playing" the balloon: Sexier than you'd think. Jonathan Ochoa

Last night's set before a nearly full house began with Schmidt inflating a balloon into a hot mic, which is sexier than you'd think. Daniel sampled the breaths (he had two laptops with who knows what software programs manipulating Schmidt's wacky and sublime sounds in [sur]real time). Schmidt then used the balloon as a percussion instrument/sound generator, eventually turning it into a convincing facsimile of a sax blurting free-jazz skree. I wish Albert Ayler could've heard it. The stoic, martial beats offered humorous contrast. After it was over, Schmidt deadpanned, "Dignity always." It was one of many hilarious comments he made; Schmidt might be America's funniest experimental musician.

Matmos' pebbled floor tile. Jonathan Ochoa

The Rube Goldberg machine dance music of "Music or Noise?" had all the John Cage fans chuckling and head-nodding in their well-cushioned seats. Sounding like a cross between Gershon Kingsley's Moog shenanigans and Herbert's farm-animal-sourced techno, the piece seemingly used pig grunts for a bass line. In the next track, Schmidt rubbed a pebbled floor tile against the mic, generating faux hippo belches while Daniel generated serene drones and high-pitched warbles. Later, Schmidt fidgeted metallic balls against each other and Daniel translated the clacks into an irresistible rhythm before our blessed ears. Twenty-first-century musique concrète met IDM met gamelan (the latter via Martin taking a mallet to various metal cooking bowls).

How often do you see a musician "play" a bowl onstage? Jonathan Ochoa

Halfway in, Schmidt brandished a copy of bargain-bin staple The Best of Bread Volume Two, verbally destroyed the band with lethal wit and then shattered the vinyl itself. He used a shard of the disc to twang it and then scraped his fingernail against it. His partner transformed this vandalism into a relentless techno banger. Incredible stuff, even though I dig a few Bread songs.

Just when you think Schmidt's the ultimate anti-musician with a deep Dada streak, he pulls out an acoustic guitar and goes all John Fahey on us. Daniel casually converted his deft fingerpicking into the hottest country-techno groove you've never heard. When Schmidt later played the seldom-seen-on-a-concert-stage nose flute, insanity was restored. 

Matmos performing at Here-After Monday, April 15. Jonathan Ochoa

The final piece was a medley of old Matmos favorites that came across like a slowly mutating collage of the oddest and most exotic-sounding strains of techno from the last three decades. The night ended with Schmidt commanding us to imagine a giant donut with pink frosting rotating above and to tell ourselves that we were "extraterrestrial masters." No encore necessary.

Evelyn Frances performing at Here-After Monday, April 15. Jonathan Ochoa

Going into this gig, I knew nothing of Seattle-via-NYC singer-songwriter Evelyn Frances, who opened. Before her first song was over, I felt bad about my ignorance. With a voice that hinted at Björk and a less bombastic Joanna Newsom, Frances proved herself an artful minimalist, using electric guitar, flute, and effects to convey fraught Big Apple scenarios. "New York is draining everything I thought was mine," she seethed in the riveting, nerve-wracked ballad "Hold Yourself Together." In her last song, Frances blended mellifluously demonic chants with looped wisps of poignant flute, building a deceptively complex web of sound that punched way above its weight. Her compositions felt as raw and unsettling as a Cassavetes film.

Evelyn Frances performing at Here-After Monday, April 15. Jonathan Ochoa


01 Stupid Fambaloo

02 Folkways (Music or Noise?)

03 Metal 

04 Breaking Bread

05 Boom Chicka

06 California Rhinoplasty

07 Good Night 

08 Consuming Flame

Matmos performing at Here-After Monday, April 15. Jonathan Ochoa
Matmos performing at Here-After Monday, April 15. Jonathan Ochoa