Music News


Americana is real big with the underground right now -- the deep underground, a mini-movement The Wire magazine dubbed the "New Weird America." A loose confederation of noise-rock refugees and various other beatniks deeply suspicious of technology and progress, the New Weird America bands are all about "freedom" -- freedom from rock orthodoxy, from commercial fashion and trends.

Certainly no music is more tied up in the progressive public's mind with fashion and trends than electronica. If the sprawling organic forms of the great freedom music -- folk and jazz -- seem antithetical to the metronomic logic of the sequencer and the sampler, Matmos have bridged bigger gaps in the past, like building shudderingly funky house tracks out of sampled crayfish neural tissue. The Civil War is more direct than the band's 1999 masterpiece-to-date The West, which similarly mutated "real" instruments. "Regicide," The Civil War's opener, bundles keening modal flutes and fiddles over darting martial drums that sound almost naturalistic except for an indelible digital fingerprint. "Reconstruction" segues from digital distortion to almost-funky beat reverie to lilting country folk as if there were no distinction at all between the three. "For The Trees" climaxes with a burst of sampled fireworks, before a click-and-cut player piano version of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" comes barreling in. The curdled brass and collapsing melodies of "Stars and Stripes" are a tartly yet playful dark jab at current American jingoism. On The Civil War, as always, Matmos walk the line between dada whimsy and pointed commentary, blurring the line until it's as confused as the weird world we live in. They never forget, to quote the immortal words of Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim (another famous retro-modernist), that "freedom is just a song by Wham!"

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Jess Harvell