Thursday, August 20, 2009

2003 : 44-45 Two tracks from The Civil War by Matmos

So around the time this blog first turned its attention to 2003, my sometimes-collaborator Laura Janine Mintz and I exchanged a few e-mails about doing a joint write-up on Matmos' The Civil War. We set up a collaborative Google document into which to post various fragments of commentary, with the idea that we'd somehow shape it into a finished product somewhere down the line.

We never quite managed to finish this. A bit of a shame, really: it would have reflected nicely upon the record, which, made by partners / lovers M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, is as fine a piece of harmonious musical collaboration as this decade has to offer.

Or is it? The album intially seems like an extended comment on life in contemporary polarized America—due in part to its sonic emphasis on militaristic sounds such as marches (listen, for example, to the album's opener, "Regicide") and due in part to the timing of its release (three years into the Bush presidency). But then you have Daniel himself claiming, in The Wire, that the album was at least partially inspired by "the domestic civil war between us as boyfriends and bandmates." So perhaps the creative dysfunction that de-engineered our fledgling roundtable was the more appropriate homage? Entropy saluting entropy? This is, after all, a band who has acknowledged a criticism that "all our songs are essentially the same: they start out with an orderly grid or set of patterns and then they fall apart and unravel."

But The Civil War builds things back up as much as it tears them down. Look, for instance, at "Reconstruction," which begins with "a noisy, chaotic section" and then resolves into "a very tranquil, melodic end." I include it here not only to make a point about creative processes but also to do justice to a statement by Laura, salvaged from our broken-down notes, where she says "This album is one of the best examples of an albumy album that I can think of. Sure, you can listen to one track, but you can't understand any of them without listening to all of them, and all hang together superbly without really sounding very much alike, apart from the endless beat of the march."

Jeremy Bushnell (and Laura Janine Mintz)

Listen: Matmos >> "Regicide" | "Reconstruction"

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