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U.S. Maple 

With Spy vs. Spy. Saturday, September 7, at the Grog Shop.

Verging on post-rock, U.S. Maple's more-tension, less-release catalog can be challenging if not inscrutable, but a thorough examination of the band's repertoire turns up covers of AC/DC's "Sin City" and Dion & the Belmonts' "The Wanderer" -- albeit aggressively deconstructed takes on the tunes. So we asked the Magic 8-Ball, "But is it art?" And it said, "All signs point to yes."

Just look at this band's pedigree. Two of Maple's early albums were produced by postmodern composer Jim O'Rourke, who officially joined Sonic Youth recently. Michael Gira, singer-founder of the brutally somber Swans, produced 2000's Talker LP, which Maple quickly followed with the Acre Thrills album. Todd Rittman and Mark Shippy's near-chords and live-wire guitar lines trace back to the Byrds, and consistently gooey production yokes them with Adam Vida's resounding, arrhythmic percussion. Al Johnson's hushed, shaky vocals evoke Tom Waits on an exceptionally quirky day. Some of Maple's studio tracks seem borderline improv, but its live shows feature improbably tight presentations of the songs. Think that angular, mathematically informed rock quickly becomes impersonal and contrived? Here's an organic, equally complex alternative.

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