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Cougar 

Law (Layered Music)

Wednesday, Jan 31 2007
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Feels liberating to be living in the post-postmodern world, dunnit? This is an era where anything can become something else with a savvy dose of spin, where we're both blessed and doomed to make it all up as we go along. Look for those same parameters in music and you find artists who sound like everything all at once, and yet nothing specifically: Tortoise, Sector 9, and Battles navigate groove and experimentation, volume and subtlety, all with signature style but without pigeonholing. Add to that list Madison, Wis., Cougar. Its debut is textbook post-rock — a signifier that's been rendered mostly useless (being a post-term, after all), but one that still implies many of the touchstones found here, including instrumental music, eclectic instrumentation, electronic flourish, and mutable but profound scope. At once surgically precise and anxiously aggressive, mini-epics like "Pulse Conditioner" and "Merit" are studies in contrasting textures, nighttime pastoral landscapes, and hyperkinetic urban soundtracks. Law is stark, vivid, and occasionally very beautiful. Unlike other postmodern contradictions — the war on terror, celebrity journalism, vegan beef jerky — Cougar actually makes sense. Which is a lot to ask for these days. — Jonathan Zwickel

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Jonathan Zwickel

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