reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Cobalt Chapel, the duo of Cecilia Gage and Jarrod Gosling, release a second album of pop roots in psychedelia and folk music, focusing in on their home county.
It is, as they say, ‘music grounded in the Yorkshire earth; its people, the surrounding nature, landscape and its mythology, from the distant past to modern life’.
What’s the music like?
Both protagonists of Cobalt Chapel have varied backgrounds – Gosling as a one-time member of I Monster and Gage through her work with Maps and Matt Berry. Orange Synthetic celebrates these diversities, and its music proves to be unpredictable and inventive if occasionally loose in structure.
The duo start out with what sounds like a leftfield pop album, but gradually more psychedelic, woozy layers are revealed, along with an underlying haunting quality. Our Angel Polygon is responsible for the latter feeling. A striking track with slightly sinister lyrics and a melody from folklore, it was inspired by RAF Fylingdales, the distinctive early warning centre on the East coast of Yorkshire. Its enormous domes, like oversized golf balls, are evoked here in a song of windswept mystery.
In Company, the first song of the album, is a dark fairy tale seen through the eyes of writer Angela Carter. It comes in an exquisitely scored chamber-pop setting, with Gage’s deadpan vocal both affecting and unsettling.
Meanwhile the rolling beat of It’s The End, The End carries a bleak, apocalyptic message, while the haunting folksong of E.B. is head as though in a weird apparition.
At times the album is downbeat in its message but the elements of fantasy and mystery are key, as are the elements of late 1960s psychedelia in the production. These give an essential colour to the music.
Does it all work?
Largely. The musical freedom Cobalt Chapel allow themselves is refreshing, and it allows them to construct unusual and evocative songs, which translate themselves into striking pictures for the mind’s eye. The bleakness of the Yorkshire moors is successfully evoked but so is the wonder of those open spaces.
Is it recommended?
It is, but with the caveat that Orange Synthetic is a dark album for a dark time of the year. It is beautifully made and executed, and offers some haunting visions. Fans of Broadcast and Stereolab will undoubtedly find something to enjoy here.
You can buy the album from the Norman Records website