MP3: Chris Cohen – “Caller No.99”

Los Angeles native Chris Cohen is no stranger to variety in several forms. He retreated from the hectic LA buzz to rural Vermont farmlands, in the midst of a career that includes work with Deerhoof, Haunted Graffiti, and Cass McCombs. The latter artist is an apt comparison to Cohen’s sound, a sprawling emotional presentation steeped in elements of hypnotic psych-rock and brooding folk. Like much of McCombs’ work, Cohen’s applies gentle tones and caressing vocals throughout, resulting in a very serene listening experience despite the abundance of ideas and transitions. Cohen’s voice is creaky and subdued, but the shifts from monotone to sonorous range are even more devastatingly beautiful as a result; take the end of the swelling “Solitude”, for example. Along with excellent efforts like “Caller No.99” and “Optimist High”, it’s off his new album, Overgrown Path.

Caller No.99” is perkier and more electric in comparison to the beautiful crawls of other album efforts. The playful percussive pops and shimmering acoustic backing give Cohen’s voice a sort of youthful effervescence, which plays a marvelously striking contrast considering much of his work recalls the past, specifically artists like Robert Wyatt and Hatfield and the North who were embracing of psych-rock and folk infusions without sacrificing their idiosyncratic trademarks. “Optimist High” is another memorable cut, where Cohen’s vocals are at their most enthusiastic in pleasantly upbeat form. “Dial up all the people you know, you can hope the living always meet again,” he sings. “We will lie on the optimist high.” The sprinkling guitar trickles at the track’s conclusion, and the vocally rhythmic “pa-pa-pa”ing, certainly coincide with this feeling of sun-drenched optimism. Considering there are several efforts on the album dealing with bleaker material, tracks like “Caller No.99” and “Optimist High” help maintain a proper balance on the excellent Overgrown Path.

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Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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