Emerald Cloud Cobra - Genou (Self-released CD-R)
I'm not sure if this is an actual release under the Emerald Cloud Cobra name per se, because the only identifier on it is in fact "Genou". But on the other hand, a quick Google search reveals that this disc has gotten some local radio adds under the ECC moniker, so who am I to stir the pot? Whatever the case may be, the sounds on here all belong to Montreal's Emanuel Côté who is Mr. ECC in the flesh. You may recall Emerald from his gob-stopping 2005 jammer "The Siren Seed of Shadow" CD-R on Finland's Outa, and after that "Red Rayon Flower, Night Beneath the Sea" on Foxglove. I have heard neither. So please, bare with me. However I have seen him play live a number of times so maybe I can use that to my advantage. From what I understand though, the material found on "Genou" is a bit different that ECC's usual excursions, which often find him all over the proverbial map exorcising various spectres through the use of guitar, sitar, keyboards, synth, various percussion tools and whatever kinds of noisemakers are kicking around at his feet when he decides to lay the tracks down. Alternately, "Genou" is built largely around Côté's sitar, synth, and haunting, effect-riddled vocals. It's also EP-length, as opposed to the other two which ranged from 40 to nearly 80 minutes.
The songs found on this disc are a lot like what Côtéplays live, in fact I specifically remember him playing several of these during the shows. One of those several is the album's lead-off track "I Find No Other" which bandies around a very memorable mutant synth (I think) line in the company of a majestic keyboard sweep. Add in a curiously dark ambient-sounding drum machine and Côté's muddied and slurred vocals (sometimes I wonder if there are even lyrics or if he's just sort of pushing sounds out of his lips) and you have ECC's recipe for success, at least on "Genou". These songs are all generally in this vein, although you can give or take an instrument here or there. That being said though, it's not because of laziness or unoriginality - Côté has chosen to work within a specific framework for this short release and totally wraps his claw around that mother perfectiously. "Calls My Hunger" is more sinister-sounding number, with Côté singing in some sort of demonic microphone-in-throat whisper and playing his sitar with the strings dragging down and scraping the floor. At least, that's what I think it is. I'm never sure exactly what's going into the pot here. "Her Past Was There, Her Pain is Gone" is another live staple, featuring Côté's ghostly, barely-there warbles against a coursing synth backdrop, while "Lia" sees his words at their most intelligible, but still hazy enough to just slip out of your grasp. There's a great part halfway through where the song grinds to a halt and a bouncing, almost Residents-style carnival keyboard spook takes over until the finish.
All the best stuff on the album is tucked away at the end, starting with the brilliant "Revelation Falls Apart", the best ECC song ever to curl its way around my grey matter. Côté's sitar takes front stage here, leading the way down a startlingly bright, sunshine-cracked path into the heart of India. I can't get over how catchy this tune is, I must've played it at least ten or fifteen times prior to writing this review. The last three cuts are all live ones, starting with "Introduction" which isn't really so much an introduction as it is another astonishingly catchy sitar-walloped gem. "Instead of Minding" showcases Côté's deft skill on the pungi, which I'll be the first to admit I'm a huge sucker for while album-closer "No Faces, in the Sky, No Faces" is kind of a downer in comparison to some of the album's more jubilant moments, even dragging down its spunky harmonium (?) melody into sounding morose and depleted.
As I think I said before, a lot of people are doing a lot of "borrowing" when it comes to psych revival these days, but Côté and his Emerald Cloud Cobra project manage to hit an entirely new string of hither-to undiscovered notes, often sounding as much an accomplished pop singer-songwriter as a dusty dirt-road traveller scooped up by Alan Bishop for a Sublime Frequencies outing. It's like if Alexander "Skip" Spence or Syd Barrett had a baby with Ravi Shankar to the tune of...I dunno...Xiu Xiu? But, you know, far better. I'm grasping for straws though because I'll freely admit I can't think of anything out there doing something similar to what Emanuel Côté brings here. Well actually I think I can - his other two albums. I better get cracking on those. You, in the meantime, need to find a way to procure this. This dude is so retro he doesn't even have a Myspace (if you can imagine!) but he does leave an email address at the bottom of the CD-R sleeve so here it is.