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Philosophical Matmos MP3

Pre-release promotional CDs of the duo Matmos‘ upcoming album, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast, arrived with a handwritten note by one of the members, M.C. Schmidt, imploring recipients not to upload the disc’s contents to the Internet. Meanwhile, over at the website of Matmos’ record label, Matador, the closest thing the album has to a title track, “Roses and Teeth for Ludwig Wittgenstein,” is available for free download (MP3).

Every one of the album’s 10 tracks is a tribute to a prominent cultural figure who, like the couple that is Matmos, happens to be homosexual, including producer Joe Meek, photographer/filmmaker James Bidgood, and author William S. Burroughs (Jon Leidecker, aka Wobbly, played a Burroughs adding machine in a live performance of that piece last year at Mills College). The Japanese edition of the album will include a region-specific 11th track, “Kendo for Yukio Mishima.” The U.S. edition opens with the Wittgenstein entry and closes on another Ludwig, the 19th century king of Bavaria.

Until it peaks out with a feast of raspy guitar squalor courtesy of Jay Lesser, the Wittgenstein track is a chunkily percussive setting for various voices intoning what Matmos has explained to be a paragraph from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Among the speakers on the song are Laetitia Sonami, Bjork and Schmidt’s brother, Werner. The sounds include those of cows chewing, dried roses being mangled and manure being shoveled. That churning rhythm is deceptively simple. Listen to it repeatedly and it becomes clear that what makes the song so vibrant is how all those clacky, scratchy, rickety sounds are used to produce a single, almost mechanical groove. Also in there, according to the news page at Matmos’ website (brainwashed.com/matmos), are the wisdom teeth of Erika Clowes, presumably wife of cartoonist Daniel Clowes, who is among the artists to contribute track-specific art to the forthcoming release. It’s due out May 9.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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