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Cosa Brava - The Letter CD (album) cover


Cosa Brava



4.57 | 17 ratings

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5 stars Another review done on base during the weekend?? Yep!

Ok, after Cosa Brava's first masterful album, "Ragged Atlas", I really couldn't wait for what Fred Frith and Co. had coming up next. Pretty much a RIO supergroup consisting of Frith (Henry Cow and much more), along with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's violinist and drummer (and husband and wife), Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi, respectively, along with Zeena Parkins (News From Babel), Secret Chiefs 3 bassist Shazad Ismaily, and the Norman Conquest doing production and sound engineering, Cosa Brava line-up is one of the more interesting ones for any fan of RIO and experimental music in general. With "the Letter", Frith once again displays his songwriting skills after many years of mostly exploring the improvisational side of music, mostly as a solo artist. Now with a full band and fully composed songs- Frith manages to show that he is one of the more versatile musicians today and ever. Frankly, the man is a genius. And this is one of the best album's he has made and truly up there for best albums for 2012.

The band's sound could be described as folky, jazzy, breathy, and less angular, than much of Frith's other work. The songs are heavily composed, played with near-perfection, the virtuosity of the musicians clearly visible. The song structures at times are very complicated, but done with such subtlety that in the beginning you won't even notice it. It is from multiple listens that you fully understand how much hard work must have been put make this music work, as the pinpoint accuracy by the musicians sounds so fluid but the more you listen the more you realize (well, not surprisingly) how Frith's melodies and rhythms are unorthodox.

It is a good thing Frith got on board of this album some of the best musicians out today, because thanks to them "The Letter" manages successfully to take these songs up and over what anyone would expect. Carla Kihlstedt, who I regard as one of my favorite musicians of today, manages to make her violin speak the melodies better than most people could. Her lines run along the album, cryptic at times, mysterious, and at other times being at the front, leading the song along. She has yet to touch an album that isn't at least worth a listen. Her husband, Matthias Bossi, has always had a minimalistic drumming style- and it works fantastically with the fairly calm atmosphere the album has, little sputters that give a lot to the album. I'd say, though, that probably the strongest element this album has is its production. The Norman Conquest, as he calls himself, manages to give the album such an open, breathy sound. Like there is always another layer of sound beating right under the one you just discovered- and many times there is another layer, which just makes you understand how thought out "The Letter" is. It is a "looking back to the past and sighing" album at times, and a strangely disturbing album at other times, as other-wordly psychedelic thingamabobs (auto-correct actually didn't spell check that!) and Frith's often sneering guitar work. It is in songs like "Jitters", which I thought in the beginning was just the CD being scratched (you know when a sound repeats itself), that the weird experimentation side that we all know and love a little more up front. This also happens to be one of the best songs on the album, and one of the more upbeat ones. The melodic beauty is always present on this album, but in songs such as the pen-ultimate "Common Sense" that can drive a simpleton to tears (may I add that there's a live version of the song somewhere in Youtube along with another fantastic 30 minutes of music).

I can't say I'm surprised I enjoyed this album so much, but this album is something else. Frith's songwriting is fantastic and heart wrenching at times, the band sounds tight as hell, and the production is some of the best I've heard. "The Letter" is an absolute masterpiece of music. I ain't afraid to say it.

frippism | 5/5 |


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