Chris Cohen: “Torrey Pine”

Photo by Kate Dollenmayer

Chris Cohen’s 2012 album Overgrown Path is one of those records that has stuck with me from the first time I heard it. Cohen, a longtime utility player for artists like Cass McCombs and Deerhoof, recorded the album all by himself, building up each song piece by piece. But Overgrown Path has never sounded piecemeal. Each song is an epic in miniature, “pocket symphonies” created in the Beach Boys mold.

For his new album, As If Apart, Cohen returned to that solitary work style, capturing the record in his L.A. home studio. His music is brilliantly colorful, but the DIY setup smudges the edges. It makes for a personalized, homespun effect: “Torrey Pine” whirs to life like a Rube Goldberg contraption, each section tumbling into the next. In a Stereogum interview, Cohen talks about how improvised his complex creations can be. Even his impressionistic lyrics start out as vowel sounds: “I think of voice as an instrument, it’s almost like you’re playing this synthesizer, where you have to choose what kind of sound you want to make, what fits the musical part.” It’s deeply technical, and it makes for deeply heartfelt music.

As If Apart is out now via Captured Tracks.

–Art Levy

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