The last record from Cincinnati’s Alex Cobb that I can recall having listened to was his 2012 LP, Passage to Morning, which was of course released on his own Students of Decay imprint—a celebrated underground label that most drone fans should already be well aware of. Now three years later, I’ve found myself fairly interested in seeing which direction Cobb has chosen to take his work, so here I am, spinning his one-month-old yet still-fresh album, Chantepleure.
Cobb has apparently never been a fan of complexity, at least according to my personal perception of his approach to music, and yet it is in Chantepleure that I can’t get around the impression that he’s managed to go even more minimal. Not yet, let’s say, on the same level as Nicholas Szczepanik, but still far enough towards the minimal spectrum to warrant a comparison.
Chantepleure is a fragile structure that has been entirely assembled out of endless guitar drones. If you don’t keep track of what’s playing, you can easily have this album on repeat forever. The entire album is very homogeneous and yet it also somehow retains an organic sound. It is only somewhere around halfway through ‘Disporting with a Shadow’ that you may find yourself temporarily brought back to reality for there’s a beautiful guitar tune shining through the otherwise droning haze. The usual warmth Cobb’s works carry is here, but is presented in a refined and polished manner. If Passage to Morning sounded thick and blurry as in an impression of heat, in Chantepleure the sun has just appeared and barely touched the world. I suppose that hints that the album is at least partially an uplifting and positive record.
The way that Cobb controls dissonance is a very specific and curious defining aspect of this record. In ‘Anselin’ and a bit of ‘Disporting with a Shadow’, you could sense that some of the layers were slightly disharmonic, bringing just the right amount of tension, insecurity, and doubt into this otherwise quite positive record. I suppose that’s a consequence of the emotional back-story of Chantepleure and all that the artist has gone through to reach the state that led him to recording it. The definitive highlight of the album is the closing piece, ‘Path of Appearance’. It’s thin yet epic, and certainly hints that everything that took place before it was only meant as an introduction to these final excellent sixteen minutes. It is from within this ‘path’ that the sun has already risen, and the listener can’t help but imagine themselves there, staring, having forgotten and left behind everything that spoiled their limited existence in this world.
A1) Prayer Ring
A3) Disporting with a Shadow
B1) Path of Appearance