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Matmos - The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth of a Beast

It's a daunting prospect to create 10 audio portraits of 10 individuals. Yet this is what Matmos, the San Francisco based duo of MC Schmidt and Drew Daniels, have done for their latest long player The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth of a Beast. For Matmos these 10 sound biographies form part of a lineage of gay icons, a cultural hotch potch including highbrow philosophers, arty photographers, transgressive writers to 19th Century royalty. Matmos are no strangers to using weird sound sources but on The Rose... even they excel themselves portraying each of these individuals through appropriating sound sources relevant to each subject's life. It certainly adds another level to these biographical sound sketches but really it's unimportant as to whether you can discern them amidst the clinically sutured beats and downright groovy electronics.

The opening track 'Roses and Teeth for Ludwig Wittgenstein' based on a cryptic excerpt from his Philosphical Investigations read aloud by Bjork, Marcus Schmickler amongst others. The squelchy dance backing created using the scrunching of dried roses, grinding of extracted teeth roses being manipulated, the sound of grazing cows and the honk of a goose tells us little about the Austrian philosopher beyond supplying the album's title.

An excerpt from Valerie Solanas' radical feminist tract, the SCUM Manifesto that called for the eradication of the male species is read aloud to the sounds of air being pumped through a cows reproductive tract alongside an array of defensive implements including knives and rape alarms. Surprisingly since Valerie Solanas is best known for shooting Andy Warhol the sound of gunshots is notedly absent from 'Tract for Valerie Solanas'. Similarly guns are missing from their tribute to Joe Meek the maverick independent music producer who in a state of increased paranoia on the anniversary of Buddy Holly's death gunned down his landlady before turning the gun on himself at his Holloway Road studio in North London. The twangy instrumental drenched in reverb is perhaps too surfy for a Meek production but you can't fault the elegiac strings on 'Solo Buttons For Joe Meek' that point to a sorry ending for the Buddy Holly obsessive.

The same can't be said of their tribute to William Burroughs, where the sound of a gunshot takes a pivotal role. 'Rag For William S. Burroughs' opens with ragtime music, and the sounds of the Burroughs adding machine, before a gunshot signifying Burroughs's accidental killing of his wife Joan Vollmer in a drunken William Tell recreation. In one moment Burroughs ugly spirit was unleashed, and his life as a writer began. It's captured beautifully as the track restarts to the mechanical whirr of a typewriter and archaic printing machine. Later on the music seamlessly transforms itself into Jojouka music, spliced with tape recorder experiments and whirring tape machines. It's a fantastic track that condenses the life of the literary outlaw succinctly.

For Patricia Highsmith, Matmos offer a late night jazzy score. The brushed snare and muted horns evokes Coil's 'Omlagus Garfungiloops'. It disintegrates into Theremin shrieks and wails, achieved by recording snails passing over a light sensitive theremin. It appears that the The Talented Mr Ripley author had something of a snail fetish. The frantic cut and splice of 'Germs Burns For Darby Crash' combines the sound of the former Germs drummer Don Bolles administering an initiation cigarette burn to the internal arm of Drew Daniel, with the sound of MC Schmidt having his head shaved.

The pulsating beats and gyrating rhythms of 'Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan' is a disco tribute to the NY dancefloor DJ. 'Public Sex For Boyd McDonald' attains a funk groove, again displaying Matmos' ability to seemingly play it, uh, straight. But where 'Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan' combines the sound of steam vaults and the amplified sounds of sequins being sown into fabric, 'Public Sex For Boyd McDonald' features surrpetitious recordings of sex acts recorded during International Bear Weekend at San Francisco's Blow Buddies club mixed low down to highlight the Straight To Hell authors predilection for outdoor sex.

The hauntingly evocative 'Semen Song For James Bidgood', the celebrated NY based photographer and director of Pink Narcissus is a highlight of the album. Featuring the slightly phased voice of Antony (of the Johnsons) over gentle piano score, exquisite harp playing by Zeena Parkins, electronic beats and the amplified thud of Drew Daniel's spunk dripping onto paper.

An innovative, informative and thoroughly enthralling experience, The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth of the Beast may well be their most conceptual release to date but it is also their finest. For more information go to www.matadorrecords.com or www.brainwashed.com/matmos