Reducing synthesisers to little more than electronic whoopee cushions may be a laugh...
Sid Smith 2008
Having made a quirky name in electronica for their inventive and often intriguing soundworlds sampled from the most unlikliest musical sources – including body parts, fetish clothing and liposuction surgery - Matmos are back with an album this time created entirely by using synthesisers. Not your sleek stealth-technology looking consoles mind you, but the big old analogue systems, brimming with patch-bays, ancient oscillators, and the kind of blipping oscilloscopes that set the hearts of all space cadets a-flutter.
By running all kinds of splurts, squirts gurgles and gargling noises over filtered bangs and bongs, the emphasis here is on fun and novelty. But after four tracks made up from manically cheery toy-town beats and making Moog's sound like a distended sequence of particularly fruity farts, the fun begins to get a bit thin. Think Popcorn by '70s one-hit wonders, Hot Butter, but without the sure-fire real drum shuffle and you're in the right territory.
The mood goes baroque with a rendition of Couperin's Les Follies Francaises. Traipsing after the coattails of Wendy Carlos' Switched On Bach 40 years after the fact may well be fun to do if you're the one fiddling with your calibrated knob but when it's as limply obvious as this one wonders if MC Schmidt and Drew Daniel shouldn't just stick to their samplers in future.
The centrepiece of the album is the 24-minute title track in which various trills and frills are sent hither and thither over an undulating landscape of sine waves and sharp-suited edits. It's as though they're trying to recreate one of those corny demo discs companies used to put out to showcase kind of far-out sounds these new-fangled synths can create. Terry Riley, Tangerine Dream, and Tonto's Expanding Headband are all reverently referenced but it doesn't add up to much more than wallpaper. Of course, knowing the kind of clever, post-modern, ironic, wry funsters these boys are, the wallpaper in question will be the gaudy big-patterned '70s variety, but wallpaper nevertheless. Reducing synthesisers to little more than electronic whoopee cushions may be a laugh but having to listen to it is another matter altogether.