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Cos - Viva Boma CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.15 | 245 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars The Belgium based COS (rhymes with "dose") was a late bloomer in the early prog scene but still managed to capture the attention of the public just as the first wave of prog was waning and ceding its power to the world of punk and disco however a few bands that defied categorization fell between the cracks and nevertheless captured the hearts of fans and critics alike. COS began its journey as the band Classroom which existed from 1968-74 and then just before the release of the band's debut album "Postaeolian Train Robbery" in 1975, the band switched to the three letter moniker that took three letters from the previous band name and created an ambiguous term that had some sort of meaning in just about every language, at least in terms of European tongues. The debut found a fertile crossroads point somewhere where the world of zeuhl, jazz and progressive Canterbury Scene rock all joined hands and had a night on the town. While mostly following in the footsteps of Zao with the attention getting vocal antics of Pascale Son, the musical experience evolved into something far more adventurous.

Building upon the styles of the debut album, COS returned the next year with the sophomore album VIVA BOMA which boldly displayed a bright orange album cover with three hippos yawning in the sun and much like a jungle safari this second offering by COS created an even more eclectic blend of the aforementioned genre bending antics although the band seemed to trade out many of the zeuhl aspects as the main focus and put the emphasis squarely on the Canterbury Scene jazz-rock styles as heard by bands like Hatfield & The North, Gilgamesh and Caravan. The band had also been streamlined down to a quintet from the six members of the debut. Percussionists Steve Leduc and Robert Dartsch had been replaced by the single drummer Guy Lonneux and VIVA BOMA also saw the arrival of keyboardist / clarinetist / saxophonist Marc Hollander who would stick around for a couple albums before starting Aksak Maboul. Generally speaking Hollander added more of the avant-prog approaches he would develop in the future especially in the keyboard department.

While "Postaeolian Train Robbery" was a fairly streamlined Canterbury infused stream of zeuhl consciousness, VIVA BOMA takes the opposite approach with zeuhl rhythms dominated by the extraordinary technical instrumental workouts provided by guitarist David Schell and the keyboards of Marc Hollander. Of course Pascal Son is still the star with her sensual femininity and ability to cover a wide range of musical scales. The album starts off rather strangely. "Perhaps Next Record" is a short little electronic experiment while the title track is a tribute to African ethnic music with a focus on energetic drumming ensembles but starting with "Nog Verder," the Canterbury sounds usurp control and never let go for the album's near 40 minute run of eight tracks on the original vinyl LP. The stylistic approach while steeped in Canterbury flavors also evokes the angularity of King Crimson guitar heft, a touch of Henry Cow abstractions and a healthy dose of 70s jazz-fusion.

While the personalities that made up the band often clashed, the magic was unleashed once the band started playing. Schell was the sole composer but Pascale Son (his wife) did an excellent job offering her own interpretations as her vocal style became more fluid as she could master the art of evoking a charming naivety to a fully fueled operatic diva in complete control of the musical flow. In many ways she reminds me of some of the female indie rock singers that emerged twenty years later and VIVA BOMA has also been heavily sampled in modern day dance music and hip hop as well. COS were one of the oddball bands that weren't English to adopt the very British sounds crafted by Soft Machine, Caravan and the original Canterbury pioneers which puts them in a very small club and like other bands of non-Anglo origins such as France's Moving Gelatine Plates, Italy's Picchio dal Pozzo or the Dutch based Supersister, COS also added its own national sensibilities to the mix and in the process creating something completely unique.

Personally i find "Postaeolian Train Robbery" to be the more satisfying album as it is more focused throughout its run but VIVA BOMA provides the more stellar technically infused jazz-rock workouts and isn't too far behind in terms of quality. While Pascale Son remains the focus as on the debut with her mostly nonsensical wordless lyrics that are used as an instrument, on VIVA BOMA the musicians also drift into many more jamming sessions that take the angularities of jazz-rock and avant-prog to greater extremes with pulsating electric bass fuzz and the every-changing chord progressions of the guitar and keyboard interplay whereas spaced out psychedelic atmospheric cloud covers provide mood enhancing emotional tugs. I'm not exactly what those hippos on the album cover are doing as they hang out in the mucky rivers of the African continent but every time i listen to VIVA BOMA and gaze into their mouths open wide i can only imagine them shouting out "BRAVO! You done good, team!" In the end i don't find VIVA BOMA to be perfect by any means but it does offer another intriguing stylistic mishmash of progressive rock genres that only COS could deliver. Even the bonus tracks on later releases are worth checking out.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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