Chris Cohen – ‘Overgrown Path’

Review originally published:

Chris Cohen’s debut album recreates a state of soporific paralysis experienced on days when you never can quite shake yourself awake. Like a drowsy, wayward wasp in summertime, heavy lids and weary limbs construct a world in slow motion, casting a comfort blanket of contentment over your being. Hands in pockets, gazing wistfully at the sky, Cohen bottles rose-tinted sanguinity with a feathery lightness of touch and stores it for the dismal months that lie ahead.

“Too much of a good thing / summer’s here it never goes away / we rely on the optimist high,” he croons, halfway through a languid suite of pop so breezy it could have its own convergence zone.

It’s the sound of nine tracks bleeding into one indivisible whole – a single mood or idea – much like the subject of ‘Monad’, an opener built on a dichotomy of suspense and relief, a game of percussive cat and mouse followed closely by a surge of dazzlingly louche guitar. “Just like a prism pulling colours out of sunrise” could be a metaphorical summary of the LP’s overall aesthetic: this sensory experience which occasionally veers off its chosen path in search of downtempo contemplation, yet overall remains consistent and homogeneous.

‘Solitude’ is a modest, minimal and unassuming song stripped clean of all attire and left hung out to dry naked in the sun; a solitary island in the middle of an azure coloured ocean, later immortalised by the slowcore, hazy tropic bliss of ‘Inside A Seashell’.

After ‘Solitude’s moment of bucolic reflection, even the proceeding sonic jolt back into the realm of consciousness on ‘Caller No.9’ is still held back by a sense of lethargy: “woke up a year too late / just to sit around and wait,” sings Cohen, before the caffeine hit of ‘Rollercoaster Rider’ enters the bloodstream like an Adderall, broadening the horizon with ripples of quivering electric organ as undulating baritone gets to grips with this perky, life-affirming paean to motion.

It’s at this point that LA born Cohen – a contributing member of The Curtains, Cryptacize, Deerhoof, and Natural Dreamers, who released ten full length LPs between the years of 2002 and 2008 – really comes into his own, fuelled by idiosyncratic charm and pastoral lyricism, possibly inspired by his current home of rural Vermont. He is a one-man band in the most accomplished sense of the term, eschewing the limited instrumental capabilities of many other solo singer-songwriters in favour of a varied palette which not only boasts drums – his instrument of choice – but also bass, Casio MT65, piano, and guitar.

Cohen brings to mind the far out, oddball eccentricity of Robert Wyatt, patted down and smoothed over by Colin Blunstone’s suavity, adding to the canon of otherworldly, offbeat artists who resist definition. And as the album draws to a close – its warm glow gradually diminishing to a muted flicker like a reel of Super 8 in its final frame – ‘Don’t Look Today and ‘Open Theme’ take it off to bed good and proper for a deep, but no doubt dream-loaded sleep.


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