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Matmos MP3

As 2003 comes to a close, references to an album titled The Civil War are sure to start appearing again in print and on the web, as folks begin compiling their lists of the best albums of the year. Released in late September on the Matador label, The Civil War is a nine-track collection of music by Matmos, the San Francisco electronic duo, who this time out enlisted a host of folksy instrumentation in their richly layered music — this in contrast with the group’s previous release, A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, which was based almost entirely on the sounds of plastic surgery procedures. If you haven’t yet checked it out, Matador posted at the time of its release an MP3 file of the record’s penultimate track, “The Struggle Against Unreality” (file here), with its plucked acoustic guitar, martial drums and extended abstract closing sequence. Like much hyper-constructed music, “The Struggle Against Unreality” is a mass of conflicting sounds: the guitar, though quiet, has as much presence as an entire string section; a tolling bell comes up against a stuck loop; a song that opened with familiar sounds of string instruments closes on what may very well be a solo for dot matrix printer. And as a nod to A Chance to Cut, the song reportedly features the sound of the blood in Matmos member M.C. Schmidt’s carotid artery. A track from that album, built from liposuction audio, is also housed on the Matador website (file here).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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