Music Reviews: March / April 2007


| March / April 2007


COUGAR: Law

(Layered)

In the opening moments of Law's first song, "Atlatl," an acoustic guitar sets a rustic mood with a repeating melodic phrase. But soon, scattered strikes of oddball percussion and muted snippets of dialogue upend any notion that this will be a folk number, and before long an electric bass enters like a cloaked figure to darken and deepen the texture. Midway through the song, a squirrely electric guitar begins shooting out supercharged circular riffs, another joins in, and for a time all these elements dart in and out of the foreground, playing brilliantly with sonic dynamics and ultimately coalescing into an oddly satisfying whole. By the end of this cathartic composition, you wonder what the hell just happened-and you want it to happen again.

Cougar clearly isn't playing by the rock rules, and in fact seems intent on subverting them. The five-piece instrumental band is part of the Layered Arts Collective, a Madison, Wisconsin-based group of artists, teachers, musicians, and writers who profess to be "dedicated to progress." Despite the whiff of pretension this carries, the end justifies the means as Law repeatedly surprises and entices with its unclassifiable mix of rock, folk, jazz, new age, hip-hop, and electronica. This is music with a minimalist sensibility and a rock 'n' roll jones.

On Law, interludes of less than a minute link together longer, more fully formed songs like footpaths between temples. Come wander the grounds in search of transcendence, and you're likely to find it. -Keith Goetzman


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