Matmos' sample-heavy aesthetic allows for instruments made from surgical tools, whoopee cushions and a rodent trapped in the duo's San Francisco apartment. They definitely love a concept. Here, they've constructed 10 "sound portraits" of gay cultural figures like philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, would-be Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas and beat writer William Burroughs. Each track uses elements from its subject's life (e.g., snails triggering a theremin in tribute to gastropod-obsessed mystery writer Patricia Highsmith) for twisted experimentation. Of course, high concept alone is compelling for about 25 seconds; for the record to matter, the music has to deliver the goods. Matmos understands, and enlists such well-known pals as Björk and Antony to help craft the lushest album of their career. Each musical hat, no matter how goofy, fits nice and snug. The glittering disco of "Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan" wisely sells itself to your hips first; the deconstructed surf instrumental "Solo Buttons for Joe Meek" hooks like a classic even as the Kronos Quartet's strings are chopped and reassembled; and "Public Sex for Boyd McDonald" is trashy, silvery funk, like a porno scored by Ennio Morricone. Rose is the finest of Matmos' five albums, and a perfect entryway for the curious.
Mark Richardson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.