Monday, November 19, 2012

Chris Cohen Hits The Overgrown Path

Chris Cohen
If it were anyone else, a debut album from someone who’s been in the music business forever would be a contradiction. Chris Cohen is the exception. He has been making music as a member/collaborator with indie bands for years.

If you have heard of The Curtains, Cryptacize or Deerhoof, you already know Cohen. If you have seen Danielson, Haunted Graffiti or Cass McCombs, there is a good chance you've seen him too.

A talented multi-instrumentalist, Cohen is a singing drummer first and foremost (picking up the sticks at the age of 3). But he is probably best known for his work as the bassist and occasional guitarist with Deerhoof (2001-2006), where his skills are showcased on outstanding albums such as The Runners Four and Milk Man.

Chris Cohen strikes his own chords for a change.

Striking out on his own for the first time, Cohen has released the debut album Overgrown Path on Captured Tracks. It also finds him transplanted from Los Angles to rural Vermont, where he sought the peace and tranquility necessary to make this album.

Although it took three years to write and record, Overgrown Path has a relaxed, organic feel that fits together perfectly for Cohen. And that makes sense. He played all the instruments himself, most notably the piano, guitar, bass, and a Cascio MT65.

He has said that he spent three years not really knowing where he was going, and it's reflected in every track on Ovegrown Path. The album is filled with unexpected arrangements, a lo-fi psychedelic pop sound, and an overall charming, unhurried pace.

All of it suits Cohen’s lazy, yet sophisticated baritone just fine. Not an inch of it bears resemblance to any of his previous work with various bands. This time it's about how he wanted to make music.

The video ought to be an unexpected sound for Cohen. Called Optimist High, it kicks things up a notch,with Cohen focusing on staying hopeful even when the odds are stacked against you. The video also brings in some of his newly found connection to Vermont. He plays the drums and communes in nature.

But not all of the album sounds like Optimist High. In Caller No. 99, Cohen laments about waking up to the sound of a clock radio “a year too late, just to sit around and wait.” The song is a nice slice of melodic psych pop with a shimmering guitar and layers of drums drifting about.

Rollercoaster Rider is a solid psych pop tune that explores feelings of being conflicted, going up and coming down. But on the other side of the coin, he composed Inside A Seashell to be all dreamy.

The strongest song on the album, Monad, puts Cohen’s easy delivery in the spotlight. The video was directed by filmmaker and educator (and sometimes actress) Kate Dollenmayer. It's a psychodelic journey that showcases photos taken by the late Vermont photographer Wilson Alwyn Bentley.

If the video gives you a sense that Cohen is feeling nostalgic, you might be right. Many of the songs carry nuances that suggest he is ruminating on his relationship with the past. His most soulful tune, Open Theme, wistfully recalls his youth and laments the years that have quickly passed.

What makes it stand out all the more is that Cohen grew up surrounded by the entertainment business (his dad was a music exec and his mother was a Broadway actress). And yet, anything he produces on his own lends itself to a solitary, sophisticated style — memorable lyrics and a dreamlike delivery.

Overgrown Path By Chris Cohen Slides Up 5.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Cohen’s solo career is already gathering steam. He will be on tour in Europe throughout the month of December, with shows set for Germany, Italy, France, UK, and the Netherlands.

His entire schedule is shaping up in 2013. He’s already slated to perform at the 2013 SXSW Music Festival in Austin, which should win him more than a few new fans. You can find the album, Overgrown Path, on iTunes. For a few dollars more, pick up the album on CD at Barnes & Noble or you can find Overgrown Path on Amazon. He also posts his own updates on Facebook.
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