What we say
With “A Retrospective” Morphine Records presents a collection of Charles Cohen's strange and beautiful works and it’s worth to have more than a look and a listen to this competently curated sele
With “A Retrospective” Morphine Records presents a collection of Charles Cohen's strange and beautiful works and it’s worth to have more than a look and a listen to this competently curated selection of twenty-two songs, sketches, unreleased material and work for dance and art performances that came into being between 1978 und 1989.
Charles Cohen, who’s living in Philadelphia, is one of the quite obscure and unknown pioneers of electronic music and a virtuoso on Buchla synthesizers, especially the Buchla Music Easel, an “integrated analog performance instrument” of which only twenty-five were made (says Wikipedia, I didn’t have a clue) and that is particularly difficult to manage. Cohen manages it in an astonishing way so he’s able to create his music mostly improvisational, based on sheer intuition. In his approach of recording Cohen became heavily influenced by the approach of the freer forms of jazz, the music itself isn’t that jazzy, it’s an exploring of new sounds and ideas, hypnotic and playful, abrasive and brittle.
Some songs from the Retrospective are quite close to other early electronic music (“UTEP2” seems to be the little brother of Kraftwerks “Autobahn”, warm shimmering and flittering), some pieces captivate with minimalistic but complex arrangements, expressive and illuminating (as “Sonomama” or the intense 17 minutes of “Generator”). Tracks like “Camera Dance” appear as proto techno, other tracks (“The Middle Distance” or the dark threatening “Overture”) are proto ambient. And sometimes (“Conundrums”) Cohen let it all go, changing rhythms and tempi, whirling noises, screaming birds, soft, harsh, transferring emotions and imaginations, colours and motions, directly into sounds and harmonies, not caring about any predetermined forms at all.
“A Retrospective” is an fascinating opportunity to not only discover a musician who has been under the radar for most of us and always worked on his own peculiar vision far away from conventions or trends (not to mention the so-called mainstream) but also to go back to the beginnings of electronic music. The technical limitations of seventies and eighties equipment, nowadays disappeared in endless digital possibilities, were a thing you had to deal with and Cohen, standing in a row with Edgar Froese, Wendy Carlos and Brian Eno, by genius and practice, dealt with it and showed that limitation in gear doesn’t mean anything if the artist has no limitations in his visions.
Charles Cohen has always been a free spirit creating unique music. And it’s a big thanks to Morphine Records and Rabih Beaini (who’s also a free spirit creating unique music) to make it available to us.
(Written by João Geck)