Cousin - MSH011 (Moonshoe Records, 2021)
The star orientated dub goodness keeps on flowing from Cousin, who serves up four cuts of lovingly crafted sonics that will wet the appetite of any electronica fan young or old.
There's something about the sparseness, the winds blowing across a sandy plain, the eerie lights in the near distant horizon, the quiet soothing calm of a salty morning by the sea, that resonates from deep within the most visceral of tracks. The soothing embrace of many cuts from the contemporary era is one of a lush vibrancy that exudes from underneath, an undulating force that drives forward the sights, sounds and feels of something greater, filling up a room not with its exuberant energy but with its unravelling tone, revealing to us a sum that is certainly greater than its initial parts. Many producers are engaged with this notion of exploration, where dub orientated elements are paired with delightful melodies within spacious compositions that seem to ride along the sea bed or the rolling hills, reflecting and reacting to the physical landforms with gorgeous wave lengths that curl and refract as time passes by. Not only is the music on a surface level a delight to listen to, but it comes in so many forms , with each person engaged with the depth and potential of the style coming up with their own take on how the ingredients are paired and explored, providing us with a plethora of vibes to select and dwell deep within. It makes for compelling listening, with each producer conjuring up a individualise perspective that works wonders on the mind and body, asking for little and yet giving over so much to us at the same time, eager and willing to provide the best kind of audial experience going. The energy feels very much like a continuation of much of the down tempo, ambient and dub techno works that were birthed during the 90s, with the ideals of yesterday repackaged and considered with a shiny contemporary feel to them. For the moments of ethereal wonderings, the nightly walks where the stars come a little bit closer into the parameters of our immediate visions, the density of life mellows out a little to accommodate our wonderings with a smile and a hand, these kinds of records are the soundtrack to experiences that help us transcend and explore the outer reaches of human expression. The music feels expertly considered in relation to its weight and texture, blissfully tending to our emotional meanderings as much as it does to the physical desire to let it all out, our bodies swaying in the morning light as the set reaches its optimal moment. The creativity in relation to sonics is something to behold, with a sense of craft being injected into every single second that passes us by on each record, touching upon the indefinite influence of 90s electronica to provide a warm embracing sound that showcases a real flair for technical application but also how passion and meaning can be placed deep within music. The environments expand and contract as a result, the flow dictating a sense of rhythmic and melodic progression that starts off predictably enough but seems like the cut continues to play well after the needle has been lifted, with its presence becoming the distant memory, the long forgotten but filtered presence in our minds that resurfaces every now and again when we find ourselves in a particularly compelling locale or context. Its music for the spiritual awakenings, the times with friends that feel particularly important, or the moments where the world feels perfectly still, silent in its ambience, and you feel the need to find a cut that reflects all that you see and feel at the time. A soundtrack to both the physicality around us and the emotions we run through our head, there's little that cannot be achieved through these kinds of sounds, and we are forever finding ourselves dipping right back into it, time and time again.
If rhythmic and undulating melodic odysseys are what you crave in life, then look no further than the music of J.Fester, who burst into life last year with a string of releases under the Cousin moniker. The music found within the releases can only be described as sonically bountiful, with an array of top end flavours unravelling atop a sea of gently swaying yet deliciously crisp percussive patterns, with the end result of each cut being one of endless bliss. You feel totally immersed from the get go in all that is on offer, with the atmosphere building from a place of calm and quiet which evolve over time through the creative usage of sequences and segments that weave so intuitively with one another. The craft of world building remains alive and very much well in the environments that Fester creates, with a plethora of objects and points of interests set deep within a wide expanse that will continually peak your interest, with the layers wrapping around your head in a warm embrace that takes the breath away. To be able to conjure up such captivating vistas is a difficult ask for any producer, but Fester takes it very much in a stride, capable and willing in ensuring all bases are covered in nurturing a sound that is big on the sublime. Shifting very much within the realms of contemporary dubby broken beat, dub techno and touches of downtempo melodics, each release seems able to provide another side to the story, maintaining a sense of progression that feels like a ongoing narrative with each record acting like a chapter in a tale that has a continually expanding set of boundaries. Before the establishment of the tour de force that is Cousin, Fester released a couple of EPs under the house orientated Freda & Jackson name, which included 2017's 'MSH002' and 2019's self titled record, which both showcased a real flair in relation to genre blending with the sound that reverberated off both releases really refreshing to the ears. Then, in 2020, Fester would resurface with the Cousin name, and the results, well they have been pretty breathtaking. Incorporating many of the melodic excellence found on the F&J releases, Fester would turn the attention towards the dubby electronix side of things, with the debut record under the name, 'A Message From Q', acting as a wonderful introduction to the world of Cousin, with crunchy precise percussive patterns providing the foundation for evolving flickers of keys and pads. It would get the blood pumping for many electronic music enthusiasts, and lucky enough for us Fester was extremely productive in 2020, with the outstanding 'Overtime' release arriving next before seeing out the year with the utterly mesmerising self titled mini-album. Cousin as a musical identity started out in a very expansive way indeed, hoovering up a number of influences to then conjure up a sound that delves and dips with an effortless efficiency, eager and willing to populate the expanding universe with enriching tales that do much to the mind and its ability to imagine and perceive. 'Overtime' was a more overtly melodic affair, with the sparseness in drumming still present but the top ends featured more prominently, with the record setting the stage perfectly for the longer length self titled release to slide into view. 'Cousin' was a intensely deep affair, with the keys and pads diving down further than ever in Fester's quest for perennial sonic perfection, and over 6 cuts the notion of extending the feels of the previous releases over a longer period of time is completely nailed. Fester has curated a beautiful thing indeed in the Cousin name, with the experiences that we walk away from when finishing up with a record something to cherish, such is the infectious character and warmth that takes the time to get to know us with each passing second. An ode to the down time, a moment within the spaces of the day where we dare ourselves to dream, to mentally wonder into plains and contexts we picture only in the deepest of sleeps, with environments and atmospheres captured so vividly by the swirling nature of Cousin's sound. Its an audial treasure trove, and we warmly encourage anyone reading this to take a dip into past works to get a glimpse of excellence. Trust us, this is a set of records you don't want to pass over.
So now we arrive at the latest record to flow out of the Cousin camp, MSH011', which arrives via Moonshoe Records, whom Fester has been long associated with. To say that the continuation of the quest to achieve sonic perfection is alive and well is an understatement, as Fester goes all out on this one in order to provide yet another exquisite balance between keys and drums. The patterns that emerge from the record are mesmerising, like the simmering effect over the still water as the sun goes down, or the calmness of a soft sandy vista, its hard to not fall in love with all that is being handed over to us, the experience lifting our mental state to some very interesting places indeed. Its classic Cousin, through and through, and with that in mind, lets take a dip into this sequential mini-masterpiece....
Up first comes 'Major Mitchell', and this one begins off with the drums and light keys getting us going. The drums revolve around a consistent beat of sort but have an ever so slight variation hidden amongst them, creating an intriguing sense of reverb that provides a solid basis for the consistent elements to double up on the rhythm, with the kicks arriving soon after to continue onwards. The melodics up to this point have been subdued yet impeccably placed, helping to add to a sense of eeriness and scale that has been building since the introduction, with new bassy elements filling up the gaps deep within the drumming pattern. You have to move fast in order to keep track of all the switches and changes that occur within the cut, but the song does a great job at making it fairly easy for you to notice and pick up on all of the brilliance that flows through into your ears. The track slows it all down to cut the drums out for a moment, which provides a stage for the chords to flow into the spotlight, their tone and texture very on point to the surrounding ensemble cast, with the track not even breaking sweat as it caters onwards still, not quite complete with its mission. The track then unwinds and unwinds some more, the singular key line keeping the pulse rate going as our eyes slowly open to see the world just a little bit differently. Stunning. Up next comes 'Flowstone', and this one begins in slightly more up tempo territories. The kicks are hidden by a veil of sorts, masking their thuds but helping to create a sense of depth and dimension underneath, with an assortment of features existing on top that add much to the sense of dynamism that abounds effortlessly within the song's structure, with a sweeping shift moving the cut into new phases. The addition of new percussive features keeps the life form renewed moving forwards, with the bass line and other melodic features permeating through the diamond like drums, helping to really emphasise the essence of the percussive features, and before long it all cuts out for a moment before slamming home into the core driving rhythm, and its absolutely glorious. All the other track elements seem to go into overtime as the drums up the ante, with additional melodics start to slide into view in the form of some beautiful pads and wavering keys that float and dwell up above, linked by the warm air that encapsulates around the track, and like that the journey feels very much complete. A stunning saunter through life's deep and enriching underbellies of experience.
Up next comes '1 Tun', and this one ups the ante even more. The drums intricately operate above a deep foundation of knowledge and feel, with swirling key lines grooving through the middle as shakers further the level of rhythmic complexity up top, with the track reaching a climax as it dips down in energy. The fuzz provides a high level of atmosphere, as if the song is calling out to us across a old timey radio, and before long we arrive back into the climax of it all with the drums really bringing the vibe onwards and upwards, the melodic features taking their time in weaving themselves back into the track, and like that we see the sweet sweet pads moving in across the horizon. Their two step sequence begins to fill up the room with meaning and feel, but as soon as their presence seems to be completely accepted the track slides into a drumming segment worthy of moving mountains, with a filtered effect leading back into the pads making one final distant greeting before the ensemble slides away into the night sky. Gorgeous stuff. To wrap things up, we have 'Manta', and this one starts off with the bass notes crafting a sense of rhythm amongst a sea of fuzz. Backdrop notes add a sense of depth to proceedings, but its the cascading keys that run across the front ends of the track that make it all feel so warm and cosy, with the varying layers on show here taking us aback with their depth and tonal feel. The groove continues onwards with additions to the percussion and further melodic elements that craft a slowed down version of the momentums we had the pleasure of getting to know before, with the results as hypnotic and compelling as ever. With each passing moment the world becomes just that little bit more colourful, with further key lines and vocal samples continuing to add to that sense of momentum which binds us further to its essence. And, like that, the tune plays itself out into the next life, awaiting our presence the next time we decide to embark on its wondrous journey. Truly, a soundtrack for the age of tomorrow.
With some narratives, there's a sense of knowing where the new chapter will take us, but with others its a sense of not knowing exactly where we will end up that is the most exciting element of all. With Cousin's music its less a sense of the ingredients being utilised but the manner in which those ingredients will be harnessed and blended together that remain the most exciting aspect of the sound. The sonics remain consistently interchangeable, providing a vibe that keeps the eyes searching with such persistence to get a hold on all of the depth and creativity on display, with the manner in which the compositions play themselves out a sheer delight to get to know and cherish. The way in which the movements between percussive segments and melodic laden sections is handled is out of this world, moving us from rhythmically enchanting sections through to the softest of climatic embraces that transitions like the water beneath our feet and the sands between our toes. The results are stunning, and its a record that just adds further to the Cousin universe, and we cannot recommend it enough.
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