Thursday, 3 April 2014

Charles Cohen - A Retrospective (Morphine Records)

Perhaps you don't have a record player. In which case, you will not have bought Morphine Records' three-LP Charles Cohen retrospective from last year. That's the only good reason I can think of for not owning them. You may be of the young generation for whom a turntable is not a natural purchase, but a quaint retro buying experience on which to play either expensive reissues or second-hand albums from a the vast dog-eared historical selection in your local vinyl emporium.

Being old, I have a turntable, of course, but more than that it is flanked by the first speakers I ever bought in 1976. Yes, the Wharfedales live on, monuments to my history of buying vinyl. Which is not to say that should I suddenly become rich I would not invest in speakers the size of tennis balls which do a better job. I'm assuming such things exist. Just the other week I stopped to stare in a hi-fi shop, somewhat surprised that they still exist. In fact, I could not recognise half the futuristic technology on display.

I spoke about one of those Charles Cohen releases here. I had intended to review them all, but time slipped by and I forgot, even though the music was not forgotten. Now that it's all presented on two CDs non-turntablists have no excuse, unless CD players have been made obsolete by MP3 files. That's possible. It's also quite possible that today's young generation have MP3 players wired into their brains from an early age and can hear music from computers the size of matchboxes just by looking at files and commanding their implants to 'Play' by either saying the word, or thinking it. I have a similar internal system, the memory jukebox. Unfortunately, I have trouble controlling it and frequently have to endure snippets of awful Pop songs from the 70s.

Charles Cohen is in full control of his Buchla Music Easel, a magical instrument which he mastered long ago, manipulating it to produce everything from joyful Pop to lengthier introspective pieces such as one of the bonus tracks here, Conundrums. The other, Slow Blue And Horizontal, is a seductive piece of tranquil exotica. Whatever mood he's in, or setting his sound is designed for, Cohen is rarely less than captivating.

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