The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of The Beast is in essence, a form of electronic concept album. Each track is dedicated to people that have been important in the lives of Matmos duo Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt.
Pieces were created using ‘instruments’ related to the individual that each song was for. In the case of Germs Burn for Darby Crash (the unfortunate singer with US punk band The Germs) there is the sound of Drew Daniel’s flesh being burnt, and Schmidt’s head being shaved. The laid back Mancini meets Bond jazz of Snails And Lasers For Patricia Highsmith features a theremin being triggered by a snail. Elsewhere Björk turns up on opening track Roses And Teeth For Ludwig Wittgenstein, accompanied by a cow uterus and a drum pattern made up from samples of crushed rose petals.
There’s more in this vein with Semen Song For James Bidgood, featuring the unique pairing of Antony and… semen. Such instrumentation is not usual for Matmos. Despite a quick dalliance with conventional instruments on their last album The Civil War, they seem to be more at home creating records from ‘found sounds’. Indeed the album A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure was made almost entirely from samples recorded in operating theatres: the gurgling of fat being drained during liposuction, or the percussive beat of cartilage being broken during a nose job.
All this might sound like the kind of album that puts the idea of art and electronic chatter before the importance of actually writing something that sounds like a tune. This is not a trip in to the aggressive world of electronic violence inhabited by the likes of Merzbow however; Matmos have created an album that is intriguing, varied and endlessly listenable. If anything, the unusual method of creating the sounds actually gets in the way of being able to fully appreciate the album at first. You find yourself listening carefully and thinking “Is that the uterus?” Which is not something that happens a lot when listening to most albums.
Ignoring the conceptual side for a moment there is a lot of very immediate music here. Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan takes the disco of Donna Summer and stretches it out on the bug-infested floor of Studio 54. Public Sex for Boyd Mcdonald (the gay sex histories writer) is a weird funkadelic workout that flirts with Prince, feels a bit queasy and has a sit down. Solo Buttons For Joe Meek recalls the classic sounds of the Sixties, mixing Blow Up with Aphex Twin and it sounds totally fresh and vital.
The closing track of Banquet For King Ludwig II is an almost pastoral piece (in the Vaughan Williams sense of the word) that should sound out of place, but somehow seems like a fitting end to an album that revels in crossing boundaries and genres. With The Rose… Matmos have created a work that fuses music and concept art, and doesn’t sound like a terrible pretentious mess. It’s an achievement that deserves your attention.