Cobalt Chapel – Variants

16 01 2019

Variants is the companion piece to the debut album from Cobalt Chapel (released in 2017). Cobalt Chapel is the psychedelic folk-rock pairing of Cecilia Fage (Matt Berry & The Maypoles) and Jarrod Gosling (I Monster, Regal Worm).

Variants takes the songs from the bands debut and re-imagines them using a vast array of effects, cassette loops, found sounds and field recordings, spitting the tracks out in a very different format to the originals. What this does is give the release a real consistency, and a more stripped back, sparse feel to the album, which is quite gothic at times.

My original review described Cobalt Chapel’s debut as being “perfectly suited to the Autumn and Winter seasons” and this is even more so for Variants, which works well as an album in its own right, whether you are aware of the original album or not. As the temperature drops, and as the snow starts to fall, Variants could well be the perfect soundtrack to your winter.

The album opener, We Come Willingly (Variant), turns the original song on its head – gone are the loud drums and the fairground waltz, and in comes a disquieting, dream-like arrangement. Cecilia Fage’s vocals appear through the fog as Jarrod Gosling manipulates and twists the drone-like synths and dark electronica.

Fruit Falls from the Apple Tree (Variant) is delivered over slow building accordion lines, retaining the main melodies from the original, but with an added darkness in its variant form. The song switches gear around the half way mark, with delay-laden percussion splashed on to the canvas.

Two of the highlights from the band’s debut album are up next, both in very different guises. Who Are the Strange (Variant) is a spine-chilling hymn to the absurd whilst The Lamb (Variant) moves on from the vocal-only original, with deep, distorted organs under-pinning the track.

The Lamb (Variant) sounds as if it was recorded in a deserted, haunted church on the Yorkshire moors. Maybe it was? Anyway, I prefer this new variants version of the song, even though it makes me feel a little uneasy.

Singing Camberwell Beauty (Variant) has the feel of a more pastoral Portishead, and would be perfect for use in a Channel 4 Christmas Ghost story. Producers take note.

Horratia (Variant) is a disturbing soundtrack to accompany “the story of an aging B-movie actress revisiting her life and career.. all but forgotten, except in the minds of obsessed horror/sci-fi convention-goers.” One of my favourite performances on the album, I love the way the keyboards gently drift into the mix before the heavily-processed drums make their presence felt.

The album ends with it’s longest track. The 11 minute plus Positive Negative (Variant) feels like the soundtrack to a late 60s psychedelic film, with off-kilter drums and sharp ride cymbals on top of mournful keyboards and the cleanest vocals on the album. The clarity of the vocals makes the clever production effects, added at the end of some lines, all the more powerful. This song has to be experienced with headphones, there is so much happening, with little nuanced touches revealing themselves on subsequent plays.

Positive Negative (Variant) is a powerful end to this well sequenced album, and offers a good taste of what might be in the pipeline for Cobalt Chapel for their next album.

Buy Variants by Cobalt Chapel on Amazon

We Come Willingly (Variant)
Fruit Falls from the Apple Tree (Variant)
Who Are the Strange (Variant)
The Lamb (Variant)
Black Eyes (Variant)
Singing Camberwell Beauty (Variant)
Two (Variant)
Horratia (Variant)
Positive Negative (Variant)


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