Imagine Stephen Foster—or at least Van Dyke Parks—armed with a laptop and you're close to understanding the extraordinary charm of Californian duo Matmos' fifth album. Like 1999's The West, The Civil War negotiates a fragile entente between Americana and electronica, but does so on a bigger, constantly astonishing scale. Fireworks explode, battlefield drummers march across John Fahey's porch, Dr John is reconstructed out of glitches, an entire track is made from samples of a rabbit pelt, and "The Stars And Stripes Forever" is reduced to a postmodern shambles.

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Matmos – The Civil War

Imagine Stephen Foster?or at least Van Dyke Parks?armed with a laptop and you’re close to understanding the extraordinary charm of Californian duo Matmos’ fifth album. Like 1999’s The West, The Civil War negotiates a fragile entente between Americana and electronica, but does so on a bigger, constantly astonishing scale. Fireworks explode, battlefield drummers march across John Fahey’s porch, Dr John is reconstructed out of glitches, an entire track is made from samples of a rabbit pelt, and “The Stars And Stripes Forever” is reduced to a postmodern shambles. Drew Daniel and Martin C Schmidt’s purposes seem to be both satirical and affectionate, but it’s the latter that ensures this is among 2003’s best albums: one that appropriates the indefinable feel of its sources as well as their historically resonant sounds.