If you’re unfamiliar with the music of C.O.T.A., you can hardly be blamed. Few artists take their time between releases to the extent that this project manages to, and these sparse offerings seem to get exponentially more spread out over time. That said, let us hope that the ten years prior to this release does not turn into twenty years in preparation for the next! C.O.T.A. came into existence briefly in 1994 as a mere blip on the radar for most, having self-released a DIY 90-minute cassette tape cleverly entitled “Terra-ist” that was limited to 200 copies. It wasn’t until the few following years that the band’s name would begin to fully take hold within the then-flourishing neofolk scene with several members taking part in a live Fire & Ice album entitled “California Daze” as well as appearing in compilations alongside the likes of Death in June, Blood Axis, Schwartze Orden, and Strength through Joy. The following release, “Ta’wil”, would inevitably be their “statement” release under the banner of Charnel Music. This album, again limited to just over 200 copies, was made with respect to DIY culture and contained information regarding long-term sustainable living in North America. With this, if listeners weren’t already blatantly aware as they should have been, C.O.T.A. became one of the first projects close to the neofolk scene to take on an uncompromisingly environmental role in addition to the atavistic qualities already found within the genre — an overall precursor to projects that are new to listeners today like Sangre de Muerdago.
Despite the neofolk references, a strong part of what makes C.O.T.A. special is their shamanistic approach which can take the music anywhere from chanting psych folk to ritual ambient, from neo`folk to moments of drone and back. This shamanistic nature is furthered by the project’s own full title as “Children of the Apocalypse” — a reference that is expressed through their very founding when they would play music in Los Angeles-area tunnels and caves, fostering an idea of leaving behind the city and returning to where the human soul is meant to exist. It also expresses an intense stance on the current ecological devastation facing North America (and the rest of the globe, for that matter) — an apocalypse happening all around us, but seemingly veiled (or simply denied) from the view of society because of the binding ties of a modern capitalist lifestyle.
The music of C.O.T.A. is profound in its ability to walk a path of music in which nearly every track takes on a different identity and yet still touches on many emotions that any person from the most strictly reactionary mindset to the most humble soul simply fed up with the workings of every day modern life will be immediately familiar with. There are moments that are tribal, but the atmosphere takes the music beyond that. Calling something ‘tribal’ usually hints at a music style that is only skin deep in sound — bombastic, percussive, primal. But “New Mythologies” stretches beyond that somehow into something more pure — into heavy hearts and open minds. This sound is the foundation for all that C.O.T.A. creates — a sound that is as much industrial as ambient or folk, but one that accomplishes a sense of ritual as well. Salomeh’s vocal approach on “Come Children come” and “Dream!” further this through a performance that is both mantra-like and non-linear and a sound that very vaguely reminds of a less refined version of Lisa Gerrard, Sue Hutton or the anonymous figure in the recent Rose Croix release on Brave Mysteries.
Music like this is, frankly, quite rare today. It represents a very basic, soulful attitude and emotion that every person in this post-industrial scene should be attached to on a very personal level. I feels it is, in a way, necessary to say that this release shouldn’t be viewed as anti-modern, however. There are zero negative connotations to be found within these songs — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. “New Mythologies” is a very uplifting, positive release, as if the people behind the music are urging us to move forward instead of spending our days brooding over a yearning for the past. It’s a point of view that many of us could stand to take into consideration, and one more trait that makes this style of music increasingly rare.
An important note to end this review, you can catch C.O.T.A. and many others at this years installment of STELLA NATURA. If you find yourself attracted to this style of music and you live in North America, we would urge you to be there if you can as it has become the most important North American annual event to grace our soil in many years. For additional information on the event, visit the Stella Natura Website.
01) A ReIntroduction
02) Come Children come
03) Marching Past Babylon
04) The Beginnings of Summer
05) A Song for Climbing Mountains
07) Come Children come (Electronic Version)
08) The End of summer
09) In this Night