Loving the Dream Machines

Chris Cook

Chris Cook -The Lemniscate frontcover web

 The Lemniscate

Womb Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Chris Cook is a solo artist in the strictest sense of the term: he plays all the instruments, produces all the sounds, via computer, synthesizers, et cetera. He comes from a little town called London. His latest album is The Lemniscate, a delicate, very ornately textured album full of an inner flame that burns brightly, without burning out quickly.

Cook’s ensemble of instruments include a sitar, various percussion items, sounds worked up with a computer, various other things that come and go throughout the album and he does all the singing too.

One thing I noticed while listening to The Lemniscate was that Chris, whose soft, dreamy voice permeates the disc, reminded me, at least on a few tracks, of Syd Barrett, the late founding member of Pink Floyd and the one whose love for the blues led him to name the band Pink Floyd, out of homage to two GA bluesmen: Pink Anderson & Floyd Council. But that’s another story…During Syd’s short-lived stint with Pink Floyd, he sang with a softly-spoken voice, one he could make louder when the need arose. Those familiar with Barrett’s career will be aware of the two great solo LPs that he released in the early 70s, Barrett and The Madcap Laughs. They were both wonderful psychedelia that had a nightmarish cartoon quality to them. They showed that he could be, and was, still an innovative, unique songsmith.

Anyway, while listening to songs like “The Dark Room” and “The Gospel According to Dale”, I was flashed back to the days of spinning old Barrett LPs. Beyond that, though he integrates the sitar wonderfully to the work. It’s worked in, with a variety of casual sounds, whether from a computer-based atmosphere to various other melodic, sonic varieties. But it’s towards the end of The Lemniscate that the sitar starts to build and build, until you can’t escape it’s rapturous, mesmerizing glow. A case in point is the terrific “Place Like No Home”, a stylish meditation on new surroundings, new meanings, feeling new sensations and the like. More toward the beginning of the CD, “Two Squared” makes a more sparing use of the sitar, but it’s still there, unmistakably. His singing also reminds me a little of Donovan’s mellow melodies. I suppose you could, if you had to, label this as “neo-psychedelia”, with the groovy sitar and the quiet, yet memorable vocal, not to mention the great harmonics that Cook overdubbed in the studio, harmonizing with himself, making it sound like a 1960s-era British acid soundtrack. Another splendid, sublime song is the title track; itself, a beautiful, ballad with rich harmonies. The next cut, “The Dark Room” starts to bring the sitar out a little more, but it also brings in some more future sounds, a mixture that works well.

Cook did a superb job, mixing together the various textures, sounds and harmonies in a psychedelic crucible with a touch of modern soundwaves included – drum machines that fit in well as a substitute for tablas and a whole host of software sounds in the mix. A fantastic, dreamy album, The Lemniscate is definitely new release that very much stands out apart from so much mediocrity embedded in a music scene, in general, that lacks a focal point or direction. FABULOUS!! -KM


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