Friday, December 4, 2009

Cougar - Patriot

Cheers to the Turbo and his Jambox for emailing this to me a couple of weeks ago; it was a nice surprise. Cougar, as I recently discovered, is a Wisconsin-based group that specializes in a surprisingly eclectic brand of instrumental rock.

Some might be tempted to categorize it as post-rock whatever the hell that catch-all means (past the need for vocals?). But, given the (relatively) laconic nature of these songs and Cougar’s penchant for dynamic grooves and tempo changes, technically it would be better classed as “post-post-rock”; music for a generation of ADHDs whose attention spans are far too truncated to handle something like Tortoise.

I’d liken their general sound to a more rocking-ly up-tempo Explosions in the Sky or a significantly less mechanized Battles.

These eleven compositions that comprise this record, twist and morph into and out of each other- effortlessly incorporating elements of folk, shoegaze, world music and blues as well as harder rock and hip hop. Overall, there’s an almost tangible electronic affect and yet, barring some creative sampling and percussive use of glitching/stuttering, the music is decidedly organic.

Like Battles, these guys are all excellent players – in fact, tight isn’t a strong enough descriptor for the rhythm section; fucking vice-like would be more accurate.

Ringleader David Henzie-Skogen’s drumming often strays into mathy polyrhythmic territory, but there are also more than a few casual nods toward hip hop. Rhinelander for instance, is pure knock-your-block-off boom bap that mixes up ethereal church choir vocals with a big gnarly bass line and some minimal guitars with Ratatat-style processing.

The obvious diversity of influences swirling around the mix really keeps things from ever getting too stale. Pelourhino is gently processed folk anchored by a gorgeously delicate harp part. Beginning with celestial atmospherics, harp and acoustic guitar, its shuffling drums build into a percussive workout without ever abandoning the songs amiable grace.

And on the other side of the spectrum are cuts like Heavy into Jeff and the minute-and-a-half-long Thundersnow. This kind of distorted, full-throttled guitar riffing provides a great counterpart to moments like Pelourhino and the balmy tranquility of mostly acoustic Absaroka.

I don’t know about you, but for me just the words “instrumental” and “rock” together, conjure ideas of murky indulgence as well as things like bong hits and excessive use of the word “dude.” Patriot all but obliterates these preconceptions by the time opener Stay Famous builds to a noisy crescendo at three minutes in.

No comments: