Firefly Music 2020
Former KARNATAKA core members rekindle old flame and make the murk comfortably disturbing.
It’s been more than a decade and a half since Jonathan Edwards and Rachel Cohen last concocted such gripping song cycles as "Delicate Flame Of Desire" but their chemistry remained the same – dormant to manifest itself after all these years in the pair’s second joint project’s debut whose very title seems to quietly speak volumes about the Brits’ creative method – simultaneously sensual, nuanced and understated. Accumulating the apart-experience the two protagonists acquired in, respectively, LUNA ROSSA and THE REASONING, and adding Tim Hamill to the ensemble’s line-up, Rach and Jon delve deep into human psyche – the art-rock veterans go as far as to provide bibliography for further reading: a logical outcome of her academic career and his musical expertise – and explore their own soul along the way. The result is introspective and captivating on both melodic and lyrical levels that reveal more and more semantic layers with each new spin.
While the key to the artists’ new universe may lie in the tremulous “Three Colours Dark” or “Know You Now” – the brass-smeared, piano-propelled story of resistance, if not regret, where Shakespearean lines meet a Child’s prayer and a four-letter word, which is not “love” – it’s the shimmering solemnity of opener “Enter, Soubrette” that suggests there’s an alternative world Edwards and Cohen inhabit today. Rachel’s vocals soar to the skies yet stay tethered to this mortal soil from the start, first by violin and often by Jonathan’s down-to-earth synthesizers, before “Wonderland (How Can This Be Love?)” spells out the price of liberty in no uncertain terms and marries folksy uplift to spacey riffs. The ticking jazziness and delicate polyphony of “Tasted Like Kryptonite” should inform the drift with urgency and also with vulnerability, but the spiritual trip of “Blood Moon Rising” sees organ paving a road for passionate voice and Chantel McGregor’s bluesy solo – a muscular aspect of the group’s approach to arrangement.
Given Dave Gregory’s six-string twang, the trio’s crystalline cover of Richard Thompson’s “Ghosts In The Wind” couldn’t be more spectral, albeit not sparse – and strangely carnal, too – yet the brooding “Rainbow’s End” will take the feelings beyond the pale, because this is what’s needed to chase away the heartbreak that’s spread all over the album. And this is what makes “Monster” lucidly cinematic and transforms drama into a techno-tinctured triumph, so even though the titular mini-epic has an anticlimactic strand in its sonic DNA, the mind-blowing stereo panorama of “The Science Of Goodbye” turns out to be a glorious finale, the last romantic yarn of getting the upper hand, as depicted on the record’s cover.
It’s an immensely mature work – a white-haired wisdom laced with just the right dose of venom and hope – which, hopefully, doesn’t stop here. That’s the sort of gloomy echo one would want to hear again and again.