Cobalt Chapel are a psychedelic / folk duo featuring Cecilia Fage (Matt Berry & The Maypoles) and Jarrod Gosling (I Monster, Regal Worm), and they have just released their debut album on the KLove label.
The late 60s / early 70s inspired music is built round the vocals of Fage and the classic keyboards (mostly organ) and drum machines of Gosling.
The album is very dark and perfectly suited to the Autumn and Winter seasons. The songs conjure up moods and memories from an England long lost to technology, reality television, rampant commercialism and a loss of imagination and mystery.
Album opener We Come Willingly is a tale of murder, driven by the album’s signature organs and vintage drum machines fed through an army of effects.
Fruit Falls From The Apple Tree continues the baroque ‘n roll feel, with a lovely layered vocal during the middle section, as the keyboards and low bassline shuffles alongside the powerful drums. I love the mixture of progressive and folk music that runs through all the songs on this fine debut album. And an album is what it is – built to be heard in one setting, in sequence, so you appreciate the journey as the artist intended.
Ava Gardner is a short instrumental that precedes one of my favourite tracks on the album, Who Are The Strange.
Reminding me a little of early Portishead mixed with The Shortwave Set (whatever happened to them?), this was the first track that Fage and Gosling wrote together.
The lyrics tell the story of a near-death experience and the rattling effects and stabbing organ are as unsettling as the lyrical content.
The Lamb is a cover of the John Tavener choral piece that you may know from the film Children of Men, and is the most moving track on the album. The arrangement is simple but its a beautiful, stunning performance, with wonderful harmonies from Cecilia Fage.
Black Eyes is inspired by the 1975 film The Stepford Wives. Distorted drums and keys, along with a slowly mutating arrangement, underpin this sad song of transformation and loss of will.
Singing Camberwell Beauty is the first song that I heard from the album, and it remains a favourite. A playful fairground waltz that gets darker as it progresses – and a song that will surely appeal to Saint Etienne fans due to the spoken interlude.
Singing Camberwell Beauty is not “the last waltz” on the album, as Maze is a short Camberwick Green on acid piece that leads into Two. The album cover will give you a clue about the “two heartbeats” referenced in the song.
Horratia is “the story of an aging B-movie actress revisiting her life and career; a young face that many people once remembered and now an old face that is all but forgotten, except in the minds of obsessed horror/sci-fi convention-goers…” I love the twists and turns in the instrumentation on this track.
Positive Negative is inspired by The Avengers, and has a wonderful, slow building malevolent end section as layer upon layer of distorted organs pile on top of the vocals.
The album ends on Three Paths Charm and is the longest track in this collection. A mostly instrumental piece, with the occasional backward vocal lines and chants, acting almost as a summary of what has gone before.
Cobalt Chapel is a captivating first release, and there is a real continuity in the instruments used and the textures and moods they create. Its very easy to lose yourself in this album, and I am really looking forward to what the bewitching partnership of Cecilia Fage and Jarrod Gosling cook up in the (hopefully near) future.