Cohabitation equals compromise. That fact finally hit me when my boyfriend and I shacked up together last month. We both had to make specific alterations in our daily routines. For example, he quit smoking in bed. And I've had to curtail the '80s synth-pop and electronic dance music I play when he's home. Fortunately, when my beloved spied the cover for Do You Party?, the debut CD from San Francisco's Soft Pink Truth (on Matthew Herbert's Soundslike label), he made an exception.
Drew Daniel, the big gay mastermind behind SPT, laughs when I mention this. After he moved in with his lover, Martin Schmidt, who is also his partner in electronic duo Matmos, similar lines were drawn. "I can't listen to Janis Joplin around him, ever," says Daniel, 31. "She's forbidden. I love her, but Martin cannot abide her voice. Then again, I made him start wearing dark socks with dark shoes, so we both had to make some changes."
But cohabitation also means negotiating when it's OK to act independently. Like the aforementioned cover art, which grafts mustachioed Tom of Finland heads on to feminine silhouettes by Ert鬠the sound of Soft Pink Truth is a pastiche of queer pop culture staplesa gleeful hash of R&B, electro, and house clich鳬 reduced to grooves that tickle the brain as well as the backside. In other words, a distinct departure from the crackling collages of Matmos, whose last album, 2001's A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure (Matador), was fashioned from doctored samples of medical technology and surgical procedures.
"It's a guilty pleasure," Daniel admits of Soft Pink Truth. "These are songs that I work on when Martin isn't around, because there's a certain amount of shame involved in the project. It's exciting and perverse for me. I'm not really worrying about what the ultimate message or meaning is, but just getting a lot of nasty elements in there under cover of darkness."
Do You Party? definitely crams a dizzying number of dirty little secrets into each of its 11 tracks. While most vocal house music is about attaining emotional release via screaming divas and rolling drum fills, SPT flits from sound to sound like a berserk hummingbird. "I'm not into the death-by-a-million-cuts school of repetitive dance music, where three or four sounds loop over and over for eight minutes," says the former go-go boy. "I wanted to flirt hard with a lot of sounds, but then drop them and move on to the next one."
Although 90 percent of the bits and pieces that compose Do You Party? were appropriated from secondhand records, Daniel did allow himself to use a few ready-made ingredients. "The scene that Matmos has been lumped in with has a real, and I think justifiable, scorn for preset sounds. But for this record I decided, 'Fuck it, I'm going to go for the acid squelch. Even if it's cheesy, it's an exciting kind of cheese.' Presets are the deep-fried jalape�oppers of sound. They're really bad for you, but you have to let yourself have them once in a while."
In the midst of his original creations, Daniel also indulges in a kittenish cover of the Vanity 6 classic "Make Up," with vocals by Blevin Blectum (of Blectum From Blechdom infamy). "I just love that song, because it's got such a tough, fuck-you attitude about such a girly, surface-y topic. Plus, there's something about the rhythm of it. In the original, there are these gaps in the final quarter of each measureit's got this strange, funny chug to it."
Daniel has played a handful of SPT live shows against a video backdrop, compiled by Schmidt, of transitional scenes in gay porn. ("There's a nice sequence that's just sexy guys raking the lawnthe pool boy, the gardener. We even found one about monks, and they're raking the lawn, too, but wearing brown cassocks." Well, not for long.) Soft Pink Truth also recently completed a remix of Bj�s "It's in Our Hands," which Daniel co-produced, and contributed a more contemplative track, "Adeusz," to the Night Owls 02 compilation (on Seattle's Deluxe Records).
But for now, Daniel is concentrating on his projects with Schmidt, which include preparing for their second world tour accompanying Bj�(this time as her backing band, not support act) and finishing the new Matmos CD, due out in September. "Martin got kind of mad that I was focusing on Soft Pink Truth too much when we needed to finish the Matmos album, which, stylistically, is 180 degrees differentthere are John Philip Sousa covers and medieval folk jigs. So I decided to be a good boyfriend and a good bandmate, rather than just a good self-promoter."
Like I said, it's all about compromise.