Cesar Montesano 30-Oct-2006 Cos overview

Esteemed friends and music aficionados,

My favorite guitarist and favorite singer are from my favorite group: COS!

Daniel Schell speaks in lyrical volumes with his playing, akin to a language. The band is amazing throughout their output. Keyboardists Charles Loos, Marc Hollander (Aksak/Aqsak Maboul), and Alain Pierre, are incredible wherever they play in the catalog. Alan Goutier has the elastic bass replete to enhance the thickening sound. Bob Dartsch, Guy Lonneux, Philippe Allaert are alert, active and creative with the drum kit. Pascale Son is in charge of the acrobatic vocal calisthenics throughout, excepting "Pasiones."

She is an unparalleled singer bar none, also playing oboe on the first two offerings and piano on the last. Her influence is likely to be more far-reaching than we can ever ascertain. In my world, she reigns supreme in the school associated with vocalists along the lines of Catherine Ribeiro (+ Alpes, solo), Urszula Dudziak (w/ Michal Urbaniak's Fusion, solo), Dagmar Krause (Slapp Happy, Henry Cow, Art Bears, News From Babel, w/ Lindsay Cooper, w/ Lutz Glandien, w/ Kevin Coyne, solo, etc. - sorry Daggi, you are second only to her), Catherine Jauniaux (Aksak Maboul, Hat Shoes, The Work, w/ Lowest Note On The Organ, w/ Tom Cora, w/ Tim Hodgkinson, solo, etc.), and Flora Purim (Chick Corea and Return to Forever, w/ Airto, w/ Hermeto Pascoal, solo, etc.). In the more recent past, we can can also attribute female singers like Amy Denio (Tone Dogs, Danubians, Curlew, Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet,, Nudes/Pale Nudes, Science Group, w/ Chris Cutler, solo, etc.), Susanne Lewis (Thinking Plague, Hail, w/ Bob Drake, solo, etc.), and Haco (After Dinner, Kam-pas-nel-la, w/ Acid Mothers Temple, solo, etc.).

On different albums there are a bevy of other heavyweights, in their own right, guesting and augmenting the incredible versatility of sonic arrays:

Marc Moulin (Placebo, solo), Dirk Bogaert (Pazop, Waterloo), Francois Cahen (Magma, Zao, solo, etc.), Denis Van Hecke (Aqsak Maboul, w/ John Greaves, w/ Frank Wyuts, etc.), Jacky Mauer (Pazop), Nicolas Fiszman, Steve Leduc, Adrian Stoop, Pipou, Jean-Louis Haesevoets, Roger Wollaert, Willy Masy, Pierre Van Dormael, and (in Classroom, precursor to Cos): Jean-Paul Musette, Jean-Luc Van Lommel, Jean-Pierre Destrée, and Robert Pernet.

“Postaeolian Train Robbery” is a perfect blend of Zeuhl & Canterbury. There has never been a better, more balanced marriage of both. The only other symbiotic hybrid that would even come close in comparison would have to be Etron Fou LeLoublan's "Les Sillons De La Terre," which is completely different - that's an infusion of Gong and Henry Cow to my ears. The vocals of Pascale Son not only complement the sensations evoked by the musical backdrop, they begin to define the far-reaching directions across the universe which Cos was to explore. Daniel Schell's amazing guitar discourse is the perfect foil to her wordless wonder and ecstatic merriment. He expounds accordingly with verbs and calculated sonic inter-textual seasonings emanating from the strings. One can almost see the grimaces of his face as he chatters aloud via the facility of plugging his instrument directly into his soul. There is not one iota of excess present in his playing, it is precise, concise, succinct, and ardently clear to make its point. His phrasing is exactly that, a manner of discourse, listen and reach for your 'air guitars.' Charles Loos tinkles all over the keyboards and piano with glee, sharing a reckless abandon with Alain Goutier for a rhythm section combination that thrusts itself upon the throne like a salubrious king or redolent mob boss, excruciatingly untouchable. All in all, there has nary been a finer moment in music as this stunning first jaunt from the band that wins my heart and trophy for first place as the stellar musical royalty of the cosmos.

"Viva Boma/Bomma" takes a more direct and overtly Kentian approach, but taking it experientially further. For many people, this is the pinnacle of the sound outside of the scene proper. When compounded with the nonsensical creative wordless verbalizations exhorted by the illustrious Ms. Pascale Son, we are going to a new level altogether. Everywhere that she blesses a microphone with the band, she brings a delicately child-like delivery to some of the most complex contortions in vocalese ever committed to vinyl. Her skills are natural and not forced. From the compatriot bookends to this release, the tactics employed go beyond each of them easily, extending into the future and the past simultaneously. Prototypical Aksak Maboul makes its presence known here. Deep space exploration ala Hatfield and the North is intermingled with a stout flavor of Cos' debut. Other demarcations present, even if only for a few bars, are Return to Forever, Weather Report, Zao, National Health, Gilgamesh, Soft Machine, Matching Mole, Henry Cow, etcetera. All along, amidst this tumult of seeming inflections, the sound retains the individuality of the band for the duration and is generated organically.

"Babel" updates the late 70's currents into a cohesive avant/prog whole. This one is hard to explain how infectious it really gets to be. At first, one may become a little stand-offish in comparison to where they came from previously. After the 5th spin or so, the magical combination of disparate elements begins to congeal into an incalculable whole. Aptly titled, this album intercepts genres and melds them together cohesively with reckless abandon for the purpose of pure pleasure. What ends up being most prevalent in here is that many parts of the psyche are fed simultaneously. At once, immediately after letting go of any preconceived notions, the science behind the concept takes one directly into Babylonian bliss, no holds barred. I am still captivated by the addictive nature therein. Glossing in front of a funky propulsive backdrop, spanning the gamut from underground disco to fusion to out and out jazzrock to Rock In Opposition, the long closer brings in an embryonic Haco/After Dinner vocal style (even sounding Japanese at times) with a harkening back to Flora Purim and Urszula Dudziak scat stylings.

"Pasiones" incorporates a more diverse tropical feel and includes Spanish, German, and English words being sung by Ilona Chale de Barcelona, sometimes mixed in the same song. Her style is complementary to the sound herein and is an excellently suitable replacement for the original mistress. Musically, this is continuation of disparate elements being conglomerated deftly into a swift-acting whole. One of the salient points of the progression of creative attack of the group is that it is always forward-looking and well advanced for the time of each release. A major point in favor of Cos is making a singular synthesis of influences. The 'rhythm of the spheres' is incorporated and built upon to create a brave new world unlike anything else ever heard before. Daniel Schell introduces tap-guitar at this juncture in his career, I am still coming to grips with what that style of playing is doing to morph the original sound even further.

"Swiss Chalet" lays in with African influences to round out the spectrum. Thickening of the underlying structure throws down a bed for an avant-garde dub style to flourish beneath heavenly chirping on the vocals. French verbiage makes its way into the mix again, it is interspersed within the other albums periodically as well. I am still trying to get a grasp on the new technique employed on the electric here, appropriately labeled as chemical guitar: searing hot. Syncopation reigns supreme, remaining inventive with other peripheral elements throughout. "Sounds" are incorporated into the mix by Alan Pierre on the first ten tracks, Mutsari from Ruanda handles the bass duties on cuts 1-5. Pascale Son matures through this outing, beginning to reach to her future as a chanteuse, albeit stretching a touch more to the experimental side here. At the very end of the album, Cos comes around full circle in their career, dropping dollops of Zeuhl on our plates, then vanishing.

Each album takes a keen edge of originality and meshes it with an avant-garde sensibility in the compositional undercurrent. Even when it seems, on the surface, a simpler approach is heartily being adopted, there is so much more to be experienced. It is the nonchalant structure and expertly executed playing that makes these records seem coy and unassuming. Upon further immersion and inspection of the maturation, nothing more can be said about this group other than that they deserve the top slot in the pantheon of truly progressive acts. My book may be biased a bit, but many of you already know the depth and latitude of my tastes and have come to appreciate this preponderance in making recommendations at your own individual levels.

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