ARTS

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March 11, 2003

Of DeLoreans and lipstick

Gimme that sweet that nasty that gushy stuff. Ungh. Oh, girls, girls, girls...this one's for you. Drew Daniel, half of West Coast cut-up team Matmos, wants you to wear copious amounts of mascara, fishnet stockings, your stiletto heels, and freak it like it's 1986.

For me, this album, which he recorded as the Soft Pink Truth, really came from left field. Daniel's previous releases with Martin Schmidt leaned much more toward the experimental end of the electronic music spectrum. Matmos gained a certain degree of notoriety when A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure was released because all of the source material used to construct the album came from the sounds of plastic surgery, the bloodless incisions, the eerie facelifts, the violent perforations of liposuction. What was remarkable in Chance and their previous albums was Matmos's talent for taking extremely varied audio sources and reshaping them into coherent songs, usually with definable rhythms and progressions. Still, I found Chance and most of West to be somewhat clinically cold, like less minimal Pan Sonic.

Do You Party? is eons away from the aforementioned albums in terms of tone, effect, and sheer listenability. Except for the middle of the album, it's lighthearted, even ludic (in a schizophrenic way). It's an extended semi-ironic (in that it's hyperbolic) tribute to little red Corvettes, raspberry berets, and the (artificially constructed) image of the hypersexuality of the 80s.

"Gender Studies," the second song in the unstoppable run from track one to four, is a prime example. As a responsible music journalist, I typically listen to an album at least three (give or take 2.5) times before reviewing it, but songs as dense and complex as this have led me to listen to Do You Party? nonstop since I got it. With a pulsing synth that sounds like it's grabbed from the Ghostbusters theme song, a simple "retro" beat, and enough samples to put the Avalanches to shame, this song is simply undeniable. When it reaches its culmination, the apex of its tribute to girls as pop culture icons, Daniel unleashes a flurry of samples picked from seemingly every R & B song ever written--"girrrl," "I always thought that you knew," "women," girrrrl," "you ladies kill me," "the chicks," all the ladies across the globe." Believe it.

The opening song in that run, "Everybody's Soft," is a laid-back mélange of layer after layer of vocal samples, glitchy ticks and tocks, keyboard melody, and an infectiously primitive bassline. Never before have I been so torn between bumping a song on my stereo and dancing in my bedroom and sitting down with headphones and picking through every minute sound in its structure.

Later on, "Big Booty Bitches" uses a grimy bassline and skillfully cut-up vocal samples, along with myriad skittering clicks and synth pulses, to pay tribute to house in its more conventional forms, even while remaining many cuts above it. Imagine house music being vaguely "intelligent" (I know it's hard), in the way that the progenitors of IDM meant it, and this is what it would be, without pretension.

Because many of the album's songs were originally released separately, the total effect can sometimes seem muddled, but almost all of them are so brilliant/addictive/sexy individually, that one can't really complain. This is where you decide how to respond to the question posed by the album. Well, do you, girls?