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Our critics' picks in new releases


A rootsy disc that reaches back into America's past. Odd that it would do so as a techno-chic splatter of digitally manipulated blips and bleeps. But it works. M. C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, the San Francisco duo that comprises Matmos, made a previous album, A Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure, that only utilized sucking-sound samples from plastic surgery operations to make music. On their new disc they go historical, dissecting and reassembling folksy music harkening to the Civil War into a minimalist soundtrack of ethereal ooze: time and memory run through an electronic blender. Sometimes their CD positions a listener on a virtual Gettysburg computerscape of the future, where there's a Civil War battle reenactment being staged, except everyone's fighting through green night-vision goggles and with lasers instead of cannons. You can hear Tron's rebel yell. Other times, Matmos seemingly references a present-day parable of civil war: the current struggle between the "red" and "blue" states, between conservatives and liberals, Bushies and Deanies, O'Reillys and Frankens. The best (or is it most depressing?) part is that Matmos's remixed code of bits and bytes, their digital babble of military bands, acoustic guitars, bagpipes, cicadas on the hillside, and Fourth of July fireworks somehow seems like a clearer public discourse--more truthful, more honest, more emotionally valid, more patriotic--than anything actually said by politicians or media mavens these days.

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