On paper, it’s daunting; an electronic album inspired and based around several surgeries and procedures. However, dare to listen to it and you will be surprised to hear some accessible music. Matmos are clear that wry and ironic humour are what makes the medicine go down, not forgetting the odd (non-surgical, although there are plenty of the other kind) instrument and tune. Besides the occasional squelch and buzz noises, it’s not overtly surgical. You won’t be retching to explicit operations here.
“For Felix” is a haunting, sparse instrumental, composed entirely on the plucked and bowed rat cage. Oh yes, that old favourite. “California Rhinoplasty” is constructed from recordings of plastic surgeries, with the exception of the (ironic, surely) nose flute. Unbelievably, it sounds cheerful and you could dance to it. “Spondee” (a hearing test for deaf children) could be a disco anthem, and “Memento Mori” has some highly comical sounds made from bits of goat and artificial teeth.
Of course, few albums are without their bad points, and this is no exception. “L.A.S.I.K” is a bit trying. Perhaps it’s too much like listening to white noise to be pleasurable as music. There is also a feeling that once you have heard this album enough, and discovered all of its many pleasures, it may become uninteresting. I hope not, since at the moment, it’s the most fascinating thing I’ve listened to in a long time. It’s hugely involving just to try and identify all the sounds and read the inlay card, never mind the fact that it sounds good. There’s even a photo of one of the patients to put you in the mood.
Written by Paul Morton.