Matmos The Civil War

[Matador; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: experimental techno, glitch, post-rock
Others: Bjork, Oval, Arovane

I imagine working and touring with Bjork is quite an arduous task for Matmos these days; not to mention the added responsibility of simultaneously trying to produce their own material and solo works (see Do You Party? by Soft Pink Truth).  The first thing you’ll notice about Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt, however, is that in their journey through experimentation, they have grown tremendously through their experiences.  Recently, they appear to have become even more polished with their delivery than on their last album, A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure.

Their latest album, The Civil War, proves this theory and promises to be one of their best releases thus far, with its absence of all the glitch-heavy abstractions of their previous work.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind their glitch work, but change is (more times than not) a good thing.  Daniel and Schmidt have become known for their ability to utilize an entire stock pot of instruments and objects to create their cut-and-paste alchemic experiments, but with The Civil War, a lot of these aesthetics have been replaced with a more subtle and conservative approach.   

The second song, “Reconstruction,” starts off with a somewhat experimental introduction before slowly turning into a mesmerizing piece of laid-back acoustic and steel guitar splendor that, believe it or not, wouldn’t be too out of place on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  “For the Trees,” found in two versions here, is the culmination of several simplistic samples of guitar and bass that have only been slightly manipulated to add a reminder that Daniel and Schmidt are still influenced by the computer.  “Zock” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” are really the only two songs that hint at the idea of this being an album dedicated to the early days of our country. 

Most importantly, The Civil War could only be described as Matmos’ Kid A.  It’s the album that will most likely split their audience in half, while probably drawing a much broader crowd to their fan base in the process.  This is definitely their best collection of songs yet and will more than likely act as the duo’s centerpiece for the long haul.  Ultimately, Matmos is doing a very important thing by staying ahead of their own game by moving in a direction that listeners are not going to believe when they hear it. 

1. Regicide
2. Zock
3. Reconstruction
4. Ytte
5. For the Trees
6. The Stars and Stripes Forever
7. Pelt and Holler
8. The Struggle Against Unreality Begins
9. For the Trees (Return)