Gold Or Dust is Cocos Lovers’ third album since going full-time in 2008. According to the Kentish collective’s website it ‘explores the apocalyptic destiny of our existence and drifts through folk, world, classical and psychedelic influences.’ As claims go, this one is both bold and disconcertingly abstract. You’d be forgiven for expecting a mishmash of overblown prog or perhaps an end-of-days conceptual narrative along the lines of Al Stewart’s Nostradamus-quoting Past Present And Future.
Thankfully, what comes across on the record is far less conceited. The influences they claim are all present, but they are explored with a light touch and are grounded in deceptively simple structures. Opener Roots Of The Willow kicks off with languidly picked banjo before vocal interplay between male and female leads describes a landscape that is emotionally and physically cold. But the song gains warmth as it proceeds, unfolding over five minutes as each element grows into place, the band rightly resisting the temptation to over-elaborate.
It is a similar story with Walk Among The Ghosts. Starting with distinctly North African guitar and rhythm section, it eschews the over-the-top, Paul Simon approach to world music in favour of something more earthy. Dea Matrona has an overtly folk-rock vocal performance but mixes Appalachian and African influences with flutes and country fiddle.
The title track provides an obvious example of the band’s command of different genres as a decidedly folky a capella intro gives way to yet more North African rhythm. The multifaceted and at times multipartite nature of many of the songs gives the band a good platform to navigate musical styles and eras at will, as is evident in Emily – a country-tinged folk-pop song that culminates in a powerful chant via complementary electric and acoustic guitars and a flute section that wouldn’t be out of place on a Jethro Tull record. Saidan’s Plot, by contrast, is almost reminiscent of The Acorn’s Glory Hope Mountain LP.
The seven members of Cocos Lovers are clearly at ease in each other’s musical company. In Gold Or Dust they have created an album whose many lyrical and musical strands mingle, deviate and finally come together again, and they have done so with melodic poise and rootsy musicianship, and without unnecessary brashness.
Review by: Thomas Blake
Gold Or Dust is released on Smuggler’s Records on July 23rd 2013