Review: Alex Cobb + Aquarelle – Split LP

While Alex Cobb and Aquarelle each contribute just 13 minutes of material to this latest split on Low Point, the gorgeous way in which both halves interact will no doubt compel the listener to many a repeat spin. Little pieces of feedback, guitar, synth chords and bowed strings crackle out of the early stages of Alex Cobb’s “Anamnesis”. Each instrument is handled and played as gently as if it were cast in glass; plucked guitar notes are faint enough to be considered accidental were it not for the gorgeous harmonies they strike up with the surrounding textures, while cello strings just barely receive the necessary friction from the bow to hum into being. A faint veil of static starts to creep in as the 9-minute “The Body is the Mirror” fades up, which starts to send the slightest ripples of disturbance surging through Cobb’s placid drone lakes, but the abrasion is never enough to severely unsettle the state of calm. Two delightful pockets of ambience in all.

It’s only during Aquarelle’s “A Shifting Visage” that the dusting of noise thickens into its own entity, sprouting suddenly upward in volcanic bursts across the track’s dreamy organ tones. The state of meditation established through Cobb’s side is lifted, with the tiny dips and bumps of volume becoming sharp cuts from all-out noise to engulfing emptiness. Soft piano notes wander between the distortion jets and high-frequency static vapour, applying melody in only the most implicative forms, while the piece’s ever-present textures begin to settle as the skies and horizons on which the more erratic, narrative-driven activity can be imprinted. As mentioned earlier in the review, the transition between both artists works excellently, rising out of Cobb’s serene dreams into Aquarelle’s restless state of awake; and of course, the option is there to reverse the ordering to let the latter’s vibrant contrasts soften into the meditative sleep of the first two tracks.