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Cora - Cora (Calax Records, 2021)



For their second release, the Calax crew turn their attentions to re-issuing an incredible piece of music from experimental musician and sex educator Cora Emens, with the sonics found within diving between life affirming narratives and beautiful meandering melodic sequences.


Frequencies within music are often designed to within an inch of their life, but at other times they feel as if they have come into place so intuitively, bound together by a force much greater than tangible essences. All forms of music have this powerful undercurrent to them, one where traditionalism and the expected become far removed from the arrangement process as we drift into the deepest of spaces, one where distant thoughts merge into a sinuous line of inquiry that catapults itself straight to the surface as a living, breathing organism. Throughout the history of recorded music, intuitiveness has been at the forefront of many significant records, particularly in the form of jamming or free styling, but on the other side of things we have experienced the ways in which wavelengths have been manipulated to form soundscapes of such epic proportions, be it the gentle breathing of an organ drone or the subtle fleeting chords of an acoustic guitar going through an effect pedal, this kind of music always spoke to the mind and its ability to conjure up the most fantastical of images. Reacting to your impulses takes place on a daily basis, but translating that into the music making process really helps to free up the possibilities, to create new dynamics that point to the stars as much as they do to the ground beneath our feet, crafting a sonic universe that comes alive with each repeat listen. Its a conversation with the subconsciousness which brings things full circle, presenting fleeting thoughts as meaningful strands of feeling that just make sense the more you invest in the music being presented. Electronic music in many ways remains the perfect medium for intuitive musicians to present their thoughts, as the hardware being utilised can be impacted upon and melded together in all sorts of ways, with the tones and textures doing their utmost to convey a certain atmosphere that you can only really picture from within. There's been plenty of excellent examples of electronic leaning albums that do much to convey a certain emotional state of mind, with the music being presented transporting us to certain environments both within and outwith the physical form, allowing us to project ourselves into the musician's imagined world view. The ways in which these worlds come together has always been achieved in the most astonishing of ways, but there's a comfort in the manner in which intuitive frequencies intertwine with one another, because you never know just what might come round the corner in these kinds of experiences. Seeing the frequencies formulate from all corners of the map becomes a joy to behold, as the paths do not naturally lay themselves out to us, instead taking their time to reveal the next phase of the plan either subtly or via sharp transitions, with this movement held in the hands of the person behind it all. The scope feels bound to the whims of the creator, their wills and wishes guided by the context, the mood, the feeling that resides within them, their vision crafted not by norms but by pure expressionism, a perception of the audial space that defies convention via the use of only the most fantastical of frequencies. A space to drift, a space to dream, a place to feel whole with yourself and the world around you once more.


“ Music was my first Love and it will be my last”

If there was ever an musician who embodied these ideas of intermingling frequencies with the spontaneous and passions for life and love, then it has to be experimental Dutch artist Cora Emens, who during the 1980s crafted some of the most intricately balanced soundscapes, often pairing the most intriguing of layers together into experiences that felt like no other. Cora grew up in Rotterdam, and after experienced a concussion in her early 20s, her life took a rather large left turn, with her outlook significantly shifting from one of taking the world as it is to having a burning desire to see and experience life around us in all its abstract and spiritual forms. This event would later inspire Cora to write music, and having sent in a couple of tracks to radio presenter Willem De Ridder - who would later become her husband - she became more emboldened to pursue music as part of her new outlook on life. Another important aspect of her life, which developed around the same time, was to do with sex and everything involved with intimacy, which led to Cora becoming a sex coach, with the aim of helping people about being intimate, relationships and love, with Cora getting her own tv and radio shows around this time. When you first immerse yourself in Cora's music, there's a number of things going on that immediately envelop you, namely the delicate embrace of the acoustics that flicker on either side of the pan, the warm hues of the keys and gentle shifts from one note to the next, and as you delve further you hear her voice filter through the top ends to really take you further into the soundscape. Intimacy is crafted between Cora and the listener, the music incredibly open and honest within the top layers, and as you peel back the layers you get to see and experience all the other goodness that persists underneath, with subtle variations persisting within the underbelly that continually feed the soul. The music feels like it was constructed with passion at the forefront, a passion for the craft of putting songs together alongside a desire to combine the worlds of sex and music, with the combined universe one of emotion and raw unbridled energy, but an energy that gently simmers along like perfected intimacy should. You remain transfixed on the warm melodies that drift from side to side, as we get dipped right into the centre of the music, our heads swimming within a world of Cora's creation, with her willingness to be so open with us through her music providing us with a connection to her sound that will exist for a long, long time. During the 1980s, Cora was involved in a number of cassette only releases under her own name, which included 1986's 'II Pozzo Canta', 'Ei Blot Til Lyst, Spontaneous Opera' and 'Zombie', which was a release made alongside Alvin Curran and Willem De Ridder. Alongside this, she was a member of the group FNTC, which featured Hessel Veldman, Nick Nicole and Willem De Ridder also, and this group would release two tapes together, the second of which, 1987's 'Opera', combined an artistic concept with life performance, as dripping ambient soundscapes were released into a room as attendees were blindfolded and placed lying down on couches, and from the music playing you can really imagine sinking into a world without boundaries, space or time. In all, Cora certainly had an intriguing outlook on the music she wanted to make and the importance she placed upon it within her life, and its something which crops up from within all the music she was involved in - that meaning can really come together through the crafting of varying frequencies. The worlds that she was able to muster seemed human, delicate, honest and sometimes positively vulnerable, and yet were seemingly able to carry over something much greater, a force or something similar that persists outside the human condition, its influence over us hard to describe and even more difficult to perceive. The willingness to invite the listener into her audial universe also makes the music have so much more charm, as we begin to pick up on the slightest of differences that shift the focus from one layer to the next, with little variations taking us from one train of thought to the next. You really feel something within her music, be it her own experiences or perceptions or indeed your own, it all becomes shared and somewhat ensnared within her music, and you really do find yourself drifting from one space to the next, dreaming of times past but perhaps more importantly of all the things yet to be experiences in life, and that is certainly something to hold on to.

"Because I was not hindered by any schooling and I still am not, this album is full of the unexpected, as it was for me and I think that makes my music interesting and even inspirational to listeners."

And now we turn to the subject of today's interview, the reissue of her debut album 'S/T', which originally was released on Radio Art Foundation back in the 1980s, and arrives to us in its present form courtesy of Japanese label Calax Records. As mentioned in the quote above, Cora's sound was largely derived from a mind free of musical expectation and tradition, where the spirit and the concept guided the compositions as much as hitting a particular progression ever did, and this freedom is something which exerts itself throughout the listening experience. Cora describes the idea of many people in Rotterdam at the time expressing themselves at home, due to the lack of venues in the city at the time, and as a result the music feels incredibly intimate, as if the frequencies are being plucked from being in the presence of certain people or guided by certain moods at certain points in time. The soft background hum is present throughout, further reinforcing the idea of home recording, as drifting conversations and Cora's excellent vocal work intermingle with meandering synth lines, with the numerous layers that make up the experience really binding you into the world that Cora looked to create. There's a soft visceral feel to proceedings, a vividness that comes from not knowing where things might go but certainly having a feeling in your heart about where you may end up, and there's a real joy in that feeling, and its the kind of feeling that only gets conjured up when the person behind it all applies themselves to the music in the most freeing and jubilant of ways. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this magnificent collection of free flowing moods, tones and emotional frequencies....


Up first comes 'Conservation', and this one slides into view from afar, with light wails and the fuzz of the feedback getting us going. As the synth grows in scale and volume, a vocal sample drifts into view on the left hand side of the pan, the words being spoken overtaken slightly by the driving key solo, that retreats and explodes in equal measure as it intermingles with all ends of the composition. The track goes quiet around the half way mark, as if the solo and the person have finished their conversation, but both elements return to the fold, speaking to one another as if each sequence is mimicking the other, content to exist side by side as verbal and tonal reflections of one another. The synth tapers off in the final third of the track before rising high one more time, and this cut really gives you an idea of things to come. Beautiful stuff. Up next comes 'Come On', and this one begins as the synth from the previous effort tapers off and the light drumming pattern comes into view. The vocals sit atop, dunked in a slow and steady feel as the drums accompany bass notes throughout their rhythmic progression, as we lock ourselves deep within the structure as all manner of variation deep and dive through the echoes of time. The vocals really move into their own as time passes by, cutting across the intricate sub base of groove to create a top layer full of vitality and presence, with Cora's voice doubling up and being spliced constantly as we move from one state of being to the next, with our hearts already giving over so much to the meandering excellence that this track possesses. Wonderful stuff. 'Telephone' arrives next, and this one begins with the dynamic drumming loop to get us going. The beat feels imprinted into the foundations, its swelling and crest like presence mesmerising us as vocal samples flicker in and out of time and space, and just as we were getting into the drums they cease swelling and fade into the backdrop, only lightly tapping away as Cora's voice rises ever so slightly in tone, and this is when the bass line comes into view. The notes from the synth chime along to the beat, filling the space excellently as the tempo of the track shifts into more up beat territories, as the telephone begins to ring out across the sunken expanse. The vocals keep up their presence, converging between almost spoken word and semi-singing, which helps to translate a sense of two narratives being played out, one that remains more emotive whilst the other feels like an ordinary conversation you might have on the phone. The track continues onwards into its final phases, merging with plenty of energies it along the way, as we slide into a blissed out bassy paradise, sinking away into the foundations of haze.....


Up next comes 'Lonely Tune', and this one begins with the repeating piano line to get us going. The piano remains plaintive, swirling and looping around the room in which we find ourselves, properly capturing in tonal terms the way we feel when we are alone, be it either for the better or for worse, as the window which we find ourselves looking out of becoming just that little bit more important. The vocals, of course, amplify this notion of being by oneself, as the main line going through the middle keeps our immediate focus but its the performance on the left hand side that adds weight and meaning to the progression, with all three elements combining so effectively in providing an experience filled to the brim with passion and affirmations. Gorgeous stuff. Up next comes 'Running', and this one starts off with the whistling synths to get us going. This sequence is quickly joined by the rolling bass line, which filtered between two notes but their placement and groove is so impeccably pulled off, occupying the space between groove and rhythm so effortlessly, as the synths up top continue to drift and drift some more within some very special places indeed. The bass's frequencies move up and down and from side to side, always searching and feeling out which area to grow into next, as the keys continue to echo across the plains, not content until their message has firmly imprinted itself in our minds. Lovely stuff. Up next comes 'All Alone', and this one starts off in the softest of spaces. Light chiming guitar (we think?) gently simmers in the distance, moving through the lines as it grows in tone and presence, as Cora's voice emerges on the right hand side to great effect, describing some kind of relationship or previous love that now exists in a past life, or perhaps a future one, and you really feel the weight of everything she says. We stand firmly between the two lines, with the guitar weaving and diving on the left, and Cora on the right, whispering into our ears with the most delicate of audial embraces, and you feel the love wash right over you. We close our eyes and imagine something, anything, and it all just feels so warm and wonderful. Up next comes 'Decadenzia', and this one begins with a very busy intro indeed. The audial conversation dominates the initial salvo, as the guitar starts to emerge from underneath to great effect, this time its tone is much more open and far reaching, as Cora's voice lays itself up top over the highest peaks. The combination of the two is simply astonishing, as we place ourselves between the two stories, one that speaks to us in words and the other through the action of plucking guitar strings, and its hard to pinpoint the feeling except for how it makes you feel deep down inside. Mentally we glide along, picking up on all the little things that come our way, and its the kind of track that you could keep coming back to over and over again, and never cease to be amazed by the sonic palette on offer. Truly sublime music, that connects right into you.


'Swing It Out' comes next, and this one starts off with a particularly rhythmic feel to it. A whistling synth grooves right to the top of the blend, with fast paced chords stabbing through the layers to provide a rapid sense of symbiosis, with all the elements meandering along as they become more and more in tune with one another. The way in which elements drop in and out of time is immensely satisfying, and as the rapidity comes back into view we get a sense that a climax is just around the corner, but instead we remain happy to just slide along and enjoy the ride, with the winding key solo providing all the feeling of progression that we need. Excellent stuff. 'Mary' comes next, and this one starts off in a vacuum of sorts. Flickering cymbals and percussive elements drift in and around the centre point, giving something away but revealing little, and after a large shift in the scale of the cymbals we see a voice emerge, calling out to us from underneath a simmering pool, and this is when the track sparks into life. All the layers come into view but persist far away, as if we are listening to the music through a window, or behind a wall, its existence all the more dreamy because its not right up in front of us. The melodics are particularly emotive, with the vocals on top adding fuel to the fire of the heartfelt experience, their tone becoming more clear over time as we shift through the sands to find a space filled to the brim with things to look at and experience. We might not know who Mary is, but this song sure does feel like it was made with all the love in the world, and we can only imagine what might have been. Up next comes 'Searching', and this one begins with the metallic sounds to get us going. The sky opens up soon after to leave us with the swinging drum beat and the driving bass note, both of which operate as one singular line of inquiry to get us moving onwards, as Cora's voice provides an weaving narrative to get involved within, as textural elements move around on the left hand side of the pan. As the track moves onwards, the guitar becomes more involved, reaching out across the pan to fill up the space behind, and as we move through the gears the guitar moves to the right hand side of the screen, merging with keys it seems as we really become involved in all that is on offer. This one is certainly one to put on and just drift away and reach out into the spaces being created, you never know what you might find out there.


'Rome Research' comes next, and this one starts off with plenty of drips and quiet explosions to get us going. The rhythm is hard to pin down, with plenty of dialled out tones and dazzling technological notes making their way into the immediate context, but before long we are greeted with the singular chord that aims to fill up all the spaces left behind. This backdrop moves into its next phase of being as it drifts up to new spaces, carrying with it the undercurrent of pulse and drive, as we continue to move through the paces at a wonderful saunter. The track feels like a dream sequence, with all the short and interrupted vocal snippets never becoming clear but merely acting as if we cannot remember what was said and who said it, with the backdrop evoking some kind of emotional reaction yet we cannot remember exactly what it was, and this only makes the feeling that more meaningful. The music speaks to us through two layers, one that persists underneath and punches through when the time feels right, and the other simply meanders through the emotional spectrum, persisting here and there as meaningful afterthoughts, and points to a future that contains all kinds of promises. Wonderful stuff. 'Through Me' comes next, and this one presents itself as a full ensemble, yet again it feels so far away, like a twinkling dream. The chords gently move atop a soft drumming pattern, and as we get acquainted with the momentum the vocals slide into view, which bring the listener slightly closer to the instrumentals, our minds placed between the two sequences which in many ways gives us the greatest of views. The vocals move away for a moment to provide some space to the guitar, which gracefully moves through the gears as it always has, and as we sweep into the next phase we are treated to the duality of Cora's voice and the ever rising key solo, and it just works so, well, intuitively. We then slide back into another guitar solo laden section, and from this point we really have drifted into the outer realms of the human existence. To wrap things up, we have 'Earplay', the bonus track, and the end of this record was always going to be very special, and with this track we might have Cora at her most transcendental yet. The sharp cloud like audial effects that slide into view are quickly intersected by some high pitch singing, its tone and texture arriving to us from quite far away indeed, but always quivering in the air, floating above the undercurrents of what might come next. Distant melodic frequencies come into view which then morph into further vocal expressionisms, as the wavelengths fluctuate from one point to eh next, never seeking out a repeating reference point but merely jumping to the next space in which to express themselves. The track then grooves into its next phase, where the original densities are replaced with quickly morphing keys, with the sequence eventually standing still when the vocals tell it to do so, and the next phase then arrives in the palms of our hands. The keys rise and then rise some more, carrying us over into the next phase of being, and as we gravitate away from this record, you do feel like you have seen it all. Words become instruments, instruments become words, life becomes fantasy, fantasy becomes reality, as windows and doors present themselves to us through a myriad of tones, textures and styles, all bound together by the brilliance of the unknown and the whims of Cora's fancies, as we walk away from an experience that simply craves for us to tread down its numerous paths again. A soundtrack to the sombre moments, the down times, or the quietly jubilant ones, this record has a set of feelings to convey, and it does it so, so well.


Certain records really do convey certain moods and energies, and make the listener feel all sorts of ways, and this can be achieved in a plethora of ways, but sometimes the feeling remains so specific that you leave the experience with an indefinite emotion etched into your mind. Cora Emens is an extraordinary person, with a compelling outlook on life that really harnesses your attention and leaves you wanting to know more, and in many ways she lets her music do a lot of the talking for those of us who don't really know her all that well, and well lets just say what the music does speak about to us is nothing short of incredible. From the off we are placed within a world of intimacy, voyeuring between numerous scales, contexts and interactions, portrayed to us via inspired melodic undertakings and incredible vocal performances that come across as if they are being undertaken in the space between our consciousness and the windows that dot a city's skyline. Such is the dynamism which transcends from every corner, you'll find yourself constantly anticipating what might come next, as Cora intuitively manipulates the emotional wavelengths in order to reach a perfected blend, and yet the music never needs to reach a peak or climax, but merely as an audial conversation that could go on and on and on. We have listened to a fair few reissues this year, but none of them come close in comparison to the experience you will have on this one. Truly extraordinary, unique and colourful, it will make you fall in love with the idea of escapism once again, and that is very powerful indeed.


A release date for the record has been confirmed for between late September and early October. You can pre-order the album here:


https://www.rushhour.nl/record/vinyl/cora


but in the mean time please do go check out these snippets of each track here!


https://soundcloud.com/user-367231954/sets/cora-album-preview











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