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Reviews
Cobra // Group - Brujas
Wednesday, July 01 2009 @ 03:00 AM PDT
Contributed by: Sage

Brujas

Artist: Cobra // Group United States

Title: Brujas

Label: SickSickSickDistro United States

Genre:  Experimental Noise / Improvisation / Sound Art / Dark Ambient

01 Sustos
02 Midnight Quinceanera
03 Bad Sing
04 Placas Apariciones (I)
05 Lagrimas y Labios
06 Truchas (At this Hour)
07 Colder than the Lights on the Roof
08 Besas Catolicas
09 Folk Remedy
10 Naco
11 When we were Young, you Never Looked at me
12 La Calaca Llama
13 Placas Apariciones (II)
14 God keep you Pretty Baby (Mal Ojo)
15 Radio Alabanza
16 Cuando Pienso en ti (Don't be Afraid)
17 Ofrendas de Luz
18 Oir al Rio y asir la Risa
19 [Untitled]

When the first track began on Brujas, I shook my head towards the ground and thought instantly that this was simply another joke release, as is often seen in the noise and experimental scene – music hardly worth nodding towards.  Stomping on rubber chickens and calling it 'percussion'.  However, the release ended up serving up the fact that not only should you not judge a book by its cover, but you should give more than just the first couple pages a chance.  Cobra // Group is about as strange as a project as they come.  For example, a few of the selling points of this release are the fact that they're the largest experimental band in the Southwestern quarter of America, the release was performed and recorded in complete darkness, sometimes entirely by strangers.  In the darkness, strangers were invited in to take part.  It seems that there was no intitiative for people to walk in either, only that people did, helped, and left.  After the experiment, the lights were turned on, and no one was there.  Strangers?  Ghosts?  Who knows.  But this definitely falls in the improv category as such.

Even as a non-music experiment, Brujas has some terrible tracks and some monstrously good surprises.  While a lot of the tracks do little other than to serve as an annoyance, others come out downright spooky and somehow fairly structured for what they were.  Then there are some tracks like Placas Apariciones (I) that start off terribly but quickly grow into something unique and strangely foreboding.  Then the following track Lagrimas y Labios holds some structure and actually ends up sounding rather traditional as far as some light good ol' southern music is concerned.  Past that it grows into a superbly textured ambient track, mysterious and thoughtful all the same, before returning back to the violin southern jumble it started as.  Tracks like this prove rather incredible for what this album is, and the only shame about it is that it would be a truly remarkable thing if more tracks on this work were like it.  It also begs us to ask the question how many tracks were compiled and decidedly left off this release because they proved too messy.  Or perhaps, some were left out because they ended up being too frighteningly well done? 

The strange thing is that Brujas keeps getting better as time wears on.  We're subjected to flows of chaotic melody paired with awkward silence and strikingly effective dark ambience.  Did the people who created these works, the strangers who walked in and just added to the texture, know just how dark the music they were playing was becoming?  Did this bizarre ritual conjure up apparitions as some of the scribbles seem to imply, was it a spirit that made the scratches in Colder than the Lights on the Roof?  Furthermore, what musicians created the lovely guitar and synth lines for Besas Catolicas?  Even with tracks like Naco that create some of the most authentically sick dark ambient that I've heard to date, or the intense ritual nature of Placas Apariciones (II), the best track is the one that seemingly got left unlisted.  The card includes only 18 tracks, but 19 are present on the album.  We begin modestly with silence and pounding percussion unexpectedly into the open air, drums that kick the dusts into the air where no one can see through the darkness.  Cracks that stir up the aura in the room, just until a melodic banjo tunes in with a bizarrely foreboding quality.  The player grows tired and weakens the pace until only short plucked notes are filling the jagged space, only to drone out into the silent hum of feedback to lead the album outwards into eternity.

Some people shrug off improv until truly experimental projects come along and put something new and exciting to the test.  Who would have thought a pitch black room could yield such results over a period of three hours, but it did.  Too bad this review came so late, as the album is now sold out.  Experimental music fans, especially in the improv world, I sure hope you're able to track it down.  This one is worth searching for.

     



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