With Plastic Anniversary, Matmos' Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt celebrate 25 years of romantic and creative partnership. While this might be a silver anniversary for almost any other couple, in this case plastic is much more apt: Not only does it echo their relationship's durability, it reflects the dedication to transformation at the heart of their music. As on the washing machine-sampling Ultimate Care II, Schmidt and Daniel explore the potential of everyday objects -- in this case, the plastic utensils and containers that surround us -- but this time, they divide their experiments into poppy, accessible tracks instead of one lengthy statement. Witty cultural commentary has always been one of Matmos' greatest strengths, and they deliver plenty of it as they pair sounds derived from plastic with reminders of its lasting environmental impact.
Even by the duo's standards, the album's palette is outlandish. "Breaking Bread"'s cartoonish boings, squishes, and wobbles -- which were sourced from broken vinyl records by '70s soft rockers Bread -- are equally whimsical and unsettlingly unnatural. Coming across like a collaboration between Spike Jones and the Art of Noise, "The Crying Pill" is mischievous and ominous at the same time, suggesting an orchestra of toy instruments that could turn on their maestro at any moment. Matmos also cleverly allude to plastic's ubiquity with "The Singing Tube," a percussive track that feels like a more stylized version of someone twiddling with plastic utensils, and "Interior with Billiard Balls & Synthetic Fat," where familiar-sounding clicks and clacks shift from random to structured and back again like a microcosm of Ultimate Care II. Matmos also ensure that Plastic Anniversary lives up to the second half of its title as much as the first. On the title track, they undercut a romantic melody with absurdly squeaky instrumentation and freewheeling beats that hark back to early-'90s IDM. Elsewhere, they revisit their past with fresh-sounding results. From its title to its bouncy grooves, "Silicone Gel Implant" is a shout-out to A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure that manages to be even wackier and more unsettling than its predecessor, while the rolling drums -- courtesy of Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and a high school drumline from Montana -- on "Fanfare for Polythene Waste Containers" and "Collapse of the Fourth Kingdom" evoke The Civil War's faux-majesty. Much like its source material's ecological toll, Plastic Anniversary's dark side looms larger as it unfolds. Schmidt and Daniel scrape away the album's shiny veneers on the fittingly combative "Thermoplastic Riot Shield," and on "Plastisphere," they close the album with a harrowing synthetic wasteland where straws, plastic bags, and bubble wrap take the place of rain, insects, and birds.
At once vibrantly creative and deeply disturbing, Plastic Anniversary is filled with nearly as many dualities as Matmos themselves. Over the years, they've turned what could be a gimmicky approach into an enduring and frequently profound form of expression, and Plastic Anniversary is both relevant to its time and another well-conceived, thought-provoking chapter in their long-running career.