Alex Cobb – Marigold & Cable (Shelter Press, 2014)

The second LP to come out Alex Cobb, the head of the Students of Decay label (whom I have some new content from coming soon) is one recorded in the springtime, and who’s cool tones and atmospheres are totally reflective of this crisp transitional period .

That being said, the opener “Famosa” is as rich and as bold a piece as you can imagine. Dense wafts of lush, thick drone slowly uncoil throughout its duration, which is actually the shortest piece of the album clocking in at a meagre three and a half minutes. It’s the turn of the tide, the growing insolation of the Spring months where life is on the cusp of returning and the light is coming through in golden waves on the world turning green again. It seems this pace is entirely too optimistic and gauzy and cant be maintained, since “Rain At The Fete” wants to oppose the brief and shimmering opener with its long, vast tones. There’s a distinct cooling, a remembrance that despite the growing warmth there’s still a wintry bite in the air, a coolness and crispness carried over. And despite its namesake, there’s no hint of water here through the thin and warbling notes that drift sensitively through the mix, only a reminiscence as we stare idly out the window as the rain comes down all day and through into the darker and more evocative night-time stretch through its closing few minutes.

I’m told that it’s not the violin but the koto that creates the piercing and elongate stretches of acoustic instrumentation through beautiful “Oversong”, the drones fresh and thick, pulsing slowly and providing the much needed oomph to keep the track driven and propulsive. It’s a strange track that almost feels black and white, these two rather stark tones juxtaposed against one another; one, the smeared guitar drones ebbing the track gently forward and the koto taking a higher strung and entirely more active and even aggressive approach. And that’s when the second and final giant comes in, the closer “Marine Layer”. It’s difficult not to make some obvious comparisons through this record, and Stars of the Lid is an obvious influence; whilst perhaps not as complex and multifaceted as the inspiration there’s certainly more than a passing resemblance in the soporific and vaguely melancholic guitar drones that enshroud our final piece, unwavering in their enigmatic oscillations. But it’s thin and ambiguous, so lightweight that it’s barely there, and nothing more than a softly morphing mass of shifting drones even when it is.

I’ll be honest I didnt invest an enormous amount of time into this album, far less than usual at any rate, because it doesnt capture me emotionally. I love the smeared guitar, the soft and cool atmospheres that are allowed to blossom and permeate through our barriers, but there’s something here that just feels a little barren. The two big tracks both feel like interesting motions in the right direction but I cant help but feel that they’re overlong and entirely too protracted, unnecessary, whilst the short pair leave a lot to be desired, either coming across as too brash or trying to shoehorn bigger themes into a tighter package. There’s some great concepts at play here and some potentially beautiful soundscapes, but it feels alienating rather than enveloping.

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