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Cos - 1978/2011 - "Babel"

(67:58, Musea Records)


*****
                 

TRACK LIST:

1.  Babel 4:22
2.  Good Wind 3:16
3.  Cha Cha Cha 4:00
4.  Mein Maschine ist Sch?n 8:34
5.  Sors ton Petard Johnny 4:30
6.  Oostend-Oostend 2:55
7.  Greeneldo 13:12
8.  Ouverture for Dance 3:27
9.  Considering a Movement 4:45
10. Boehme 4:12
11. Babel 4:12
12. Amafam 5:24
13. Nog Verder 2:12
14. Nacht in Hannover 2:57

LINEUP:

Philippe Allaert Ц drums, percussion
Daniel Schell Ц guitars; flutes
Marc Hollander Ц organ; sax
Pascale Son Ц vocals; oboe
Alain Goutier Ц bass 
With:
Nicolas Fiszman Ц guitars, bass
Charles Loos Ц piano, organ
Francois Cahen Ц piano 
Marc Moulin Ц organ 
Dick Bogaert Ц flute 

Prolusion. The Belgian act COS was formed in the early 70's, and for the just over 10 years they were active they released five full length productions that have secured them a place in the annals of European progressive rock. "Babel" from 1978 was the third of these productions and the last of what is generally considered as their best albums.

Analysis. Sometimes you wonder just why an album has been reissued. When a disc has been out of circulation, print and generally unavailable new or second hand for some time a reissue is of course very much in order, but when the production is generally available in some form or other, also in reissued formats, the reasons may not be that obvious. In the case of this re-edition of "Babel" I presume there are two answers, and in this case they are good ones too. The original material has been remastered since the last reissue, and the CD has been appended with a fair amount of bonus material. And a bilingual booklet commenting on band history, the tracks on the original CD as well as the bonus tracks should be fairly interesting too, at least for existing fans. The original 1978 production is one that, at least to my ears, to some extent merits a description as a time typical piece. The compositions have qualities to them that don't limit their appeal to a specific time period or the people who lived there and then, but some distinct details in the performance and the arrangements could only have been made in the late 70's, at least to my ears. These details reside most profoundly in the rhythms department, where the steady drums and wandering, circulating bass motifs tend to blend into a tight interwoven performance that in expression resides on the borderlands between jazz and disco. Archetypical, groove-laden plucked bass wandering so typical of what was hot in the clubs at the time makes frequent appearances, but at the same time many traits of a similar nature referencing back to the older and more sophisticated jazz territories are just as much a part of the proceedings: an expression that to my ears merits the aforementioned time typical description pretty well. The distinctly dampened, slightly psychedelic laden 70's guitar licks share some of the same qualities, but are to a much greater extent emphasized on a jazz-tinged expression. But some disco-tinged nuances do appear on occasion also, from Schell's instrumental escapades. Keyboard, piano, flute and sax supplement the instrumental parts of the package quite nicely, in excursions with a fair degree of variation in pace, intensity and arrangements. Sparse, dream-laden material like Goodwind, frequently reminding of Camel, sits well side by side with material of a much more challenging nature, and the central feature of the latter is the part played by lead vocalist Pascale Son, as well as whoever caters for the backing vocals when present. Her voice is light-toned; her expression is dramatic, and she tends to stick to non-verbal vocals in a manner referencing to jazz vocalists. But in a slightly overblown manner that at times made me associate with music made for children. But more often, in particular when at her most dramatic, other references soon started to appear as well. In particular in the passages with tight instrumental backing and dramatic backing vocals, the similarities to the French band Magma were striking. Most striking on the longest excursions, and in particular on final track Greeneldo, a number I suspect many fans of Christian Vander's legendary act might find to be interesting enough in itself to warrant a purchase of this CD. The bonus material is of a nature that for me appears to be of limited interest - low quality live recordings from two different occasions, the first from a show in Belgium and the second from a concert in Germany, the former consisting of material reworked to fit a dance performance, the latter featuring minimalistic, instrumental versions of their material. ItТs too low in quality to merit being released on a CD of their own, but with nuances to them that should interest dedicated fans of the band.

Conclusion. "Babel" is a CD that explores a style of music that is firmly based in jazz rock, at times liberally flavored with details most commonly found in disco music. But it's when the band depart from those shores and head into territories of a more challenging nature they appear to be most interesting just over 30 years later, when dramatic non-verbal lead vocals and occasional richly layered backing vocals combine on top of a tight fusion based instrumental backbone to result in a bright, optimistic variety of Zeuhl. First and foremost referencing the legendary French band Magma, but with a positive sheen and naive nature very much particular to Cos.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 4, 2012
The Rating Room


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