Naing Naing: Toothbrush Fever

Out-Matmosying Matmos, Naing Naing (François L'Homer's alias is pronounced '9, 9') created his Musique Concrète excursion Toothbrush Fever almost entirely from 'natural' sounds (crickets, ice cubes, etc.). Toothbrushes generate techno rhythms (“Brosse à Danse”) alongside a deflating balloon noise that suggests a Moroccan woodwind, wasp noises simulate tabla drones (“Dervish Bee,” “Wasp Tabla”), South-East Asian toads and frogs produce a croaking base for Miss Maya's (Astrid Orion) vocals in “Webbed,” industrial drum & bass is generated by an antiquated diesel generator (“Mi ma la bu”), and a cricket 'performs' Händel's “Sarabande.” (Interestingly, L'Homer's “Toad Fever,” a cover of Elvis's “Fever” constructed from toad and frog sounds, delayed the album's original release when the song's publisher refused in 2002 to authorize its release, forcing L'Homer to amend the track listing.)

Inarguably impressive on one level, certainly, but by now morphing natural phenomena into 'musical' content via digital synthesis isn't a new or overly radical idea, though few push the concept to the same extreme as Naing Naing. And, though it hardly need be stated, the final barometer is always musical quality—Matmos's A Chance To Cut is a Chance to Cure impresses independently of the fact that surgical instruments were used. An interesting experiment from the admirably resourceful L'Homer, then, but one might best regard his Naing Naing project as less a compositional vehicle than an explorative exercise in aural lexicography.

March 2006