Matador – 2001

Using audio samples from plastic surgery operating theatres, it's difficult not to be intrigued by the fourth album from San Francisco electronica act Matmos. Given the unconventional origins of the music, this is an lp that will undoubtedly go down as one of the year's strangest releases. While Matmos excel at being quirky and inventive, their compositions all too often descend into an indecipherable pit of avant-garde pretence rendering the lp uninteresting and quite frankly unlistenable.

The recurring theme of medical technology will, of course, revolt the squeamish and compel the perverse. The sleeve boldly details how Matmos have created their 'songs' from liposuction, laser eye surgery, hearing aids, acupuncture, rat cages, human skulls and nose jobs. And guessing what part of the human anatomy you just heard on your hi-fi does add a curiously morbid edge to the listening experience.

However, the crack of cartilage and bones bears a striking resemblance to the 'click and glitch' effects that have become synonymous with the so-called minimal techno genre and its most likely that fans of abstract electronic music will be allured by the Matmos sound. Having endured the hassle of assembling their bizarre raw materials, it is rather disappointing then that the end product ultimately sounds like more of the same. It is undeniable that Matmos' playful cut and paste creations do exude a certain clumsy charm, but they would be all the more enjoyable were it not for the vacuum of musicality that the du'’s experimentation has left in its wake.

There are some moments of magic, however. Tracks like 'Lipostudio...and so on' and 'Spondee' begin with some clever and compelling production work that would do the Aphex Twin proud. 'For Felix (and all the rats)' sounds like a sombre ode to the plight of laboratory-dwelling rodents, with the mournful echo of a rat cage a dead ringer for the discordant beauty of a Kevin Shields guitar riff. Unfortunately, Matmos choose to direct all these tracks towards a cacophonous conclusion, the like of which My Bloody Valentine have never known.

Having previously collaborated with Bjork, Matmos pair Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt have begun working on the Icelandic’s forthcoming new album. Hopefully, this will yield more enduring results.

James Boylan