Metaxu’s first album [Metaxu, 2001, Plate Lunch] is disappointing, but their second [Rumors of War, 2003, No Type] is a very different affair. The claustrophobic electro-glitch of the 2000 eponymous CD has transformed into a lush set of romantic sample-based constructions. Obviously, the main theme is war. The 12 tracks are titled after key 20th-century historical events of a belligerent nature, from Sarajevo, June 28, 1914 to New York, September 11, 2001. Throughout the album, the music expresses melancholia, mourning and sadness as filtered through the prism of romanticism. Samples of piano and guitar motifs, chants, orchestral music, historical speeches and intimate voices have been assembled to create strongly evocative tracks. Compared to the dryness of the first album, Rumors of War is downright a crowd pleaser. The sound palette is varied and rich. The electronic textures are used as an accompaniment to the sampled instruments, preserving a certain warmth and a “song” structure. One thinks much more of Tibor Szemzö’s emotional evocations of past memories than of any member of the experimental ambient community (the label’s press release is prone to mention Fennesz and Ekkehard Ehlers, but Metaxu’s music is here even easier to absorb). And despite the fact that some followers of Maurizio Martusciello (one half of Metaxu) since his departure from the group Ossatura will be quite surprised by the accessibility of this music, the project is a success. Each piece proposes a historical reading open to interpretation, a precise evocation of the event, and a powerful emotional charge. Highlights include: the quiet fragmented electronics in Hiroshima; the delicate water sounds providing the basis for Falkland; and the Arabic melody heard in the distance at the beginning of New York, a hint to the fact that this event would have as big (if not bigger) an impact on the population of the Middle-East than on Americans — and there is no other way to describe the finale of that piece than to say that it literally collapses on itself. Recommended.