A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure

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Watching plastic surgery procedures requires a brave heart (or at least a strong stomach): It's equally chilling and fascinating to see the body cut open, invaded, and manipulated with cold machinery in pursuit of aesthetic perfection. Of course, there's a parallel between the way plastic surgeons reshape humans to conform to some ideal and the way other artists sculpt their ideas into something distinctive or beautiful. Matmos' fourth album A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure makes that connection in the most literal, explicit way: The duo, brave of heart and strong of stomach (and both doctors' sons), recorded the snips, clicks, snaps, and squelches of various surgical procedures, then nipped and tucked them into seven remarkably accessible, melodic pieces of experimental techno. Though the source material has been recontextualized into music, it doesn't escape its origins; you can take the sounds out of the surgery, but you can't really take the surgery out of the sounds. The jaunty "Lipostudio (And So On)" recalls Mouse on Mars' bouncy electronic pop, but realizing that the song's cheery-sounding squelches come from body fat being sucked through a tube makes for queasy listening. To the duo's credit, Matmos avoids making A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure grisly or gross; Andrew Daniel and Martin Schmidt approach the album's concept with their usual playfulness and an appropriately clinical detachment, resulting in some clever and surprisingly diverse songs. "L. A. S. I. K."'s surgical laser zaps and "Ur Tchun Tan Tse Qi"'s electrical acupunture pulses make for synapse-frying glitchfests, while "Memento Mori"'s brittle, percussive funk belies its beginnings as samples of scraping and tapping a skull. "Spondee" mixes a test for hearing-impaired children with a kinetic bassline and a house beat, turning it into a dance anthem for a doctor's waiting room; "For Felix (And All the Rats)," built out of the sounds from a bowed and plucked rat cage, is an eerie elegy for Matmos' deceased pet and labaratory animals everywhere. Best of all, though, is the ten-minute album closer "California Rhinoplasty," which wittily juxtaposes a nose flute against the disturbing but undeniably rhythmic sounds of crunching bone, cauterized tissue, buzzing saws, and pumping respirators. Though its concept is somewhat gimmicky -- a word long associated with Matmos' cut-and-paste mix of everyday and extraordinary sounds and more conventional instrumentation -- A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure's fascinating idea and engaging results prove that Daniel and Schmidt are two of electronic music's deftest sonic surgeons.

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