On the first listen, Madison based (Wisconsin, US) instrumental five-piece band, Cougar, sounds peculiar – not fitting into any specific classification (and proud of it!), yet tending to be loosely associated with post-rock more than any other genre. But after returning to their debut album, Law, for the second time, I realize that it’s exactly what I want to hear. Describing their music as “emergency rock” geared towards “rescue culture”, Cougar experiments with beats, harmony, and structure.

The production ranges from electronic to organic, reminding me of earlier tracks by Telefon Tel Aviv (minus the glitch) and perhaps even Four Tet. Some rhythms are influenced by electronica and I would go as far as say upbeat instrumental hip-hop beats. There’s also a special treat in the “intermissions” between the main tracks. Throughout the album, Cougar sprinkles five consecutively named sketches. These are the experimental pieces that are extremely fun to listen to, reminiscent of pieces on Radiohead’s Kid A – I only wish they were expanded into full tracks.

The exploratory approach of Cougar’s composition brings back the curiosity and excitement which I first encountered through Grails. There is no formula. There is no tiring structure. On Law, Cougar switches gears and takes you into a new direction at a whim. And the mastering is outstanding – I guess it has to be, when you find out that John McEntire (Tortoise and The Sea and Cake) is behind the production. I find myself returning to Cougar over and over. Recommended for the above mentioned names, plus if you like 65daysofstatic, Yndi Halda, Saxon Shore, and This Will Destroy You.