Release Date: May 6, 2016
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
The word pysch gets bandied about far too often these days, with seemingly any band with a guitar pedal lumped into this mass of music. And not much of it is actually psych at all, in the traditional sense of things. Chances are, if a band you like once held a chord for more than a bar, had an instrumental passage, or locked into a groove, someone has called them a psych band.
Chris Cohen's quietly awestruck presence, straddling melancholy and yearning, is unmistakable, even if you don't really know who he is. It informs The Runners Four-era Deerhoof, Curtains’ impressionistic scrapes, and the gossamer, doe-eyed pop of Cryptacize, the quartet the Los Angeles musician fronted alongside fellow vocalist Nedelle Torrisi. His sensibility is theatrical in a generous, arresting way, as though his primary prerogative is to clear room on his futon for listeners to safely explore a broad spectrum of common emotions.
Given that Chris Cohen has been a part of bands that normally gravitate toward the more intricate side of psychedelia, whether it’s Ariel Pink’s deranged novelty rock or Deerhoof’s whimsical noise, one would assume that he’d follow a similar professional path as a solo artist. However, Cohen’s debut effort, Overgrown Path, did exactly the opposite: there was a focus on prioritizing feeling over technicality, to expose a more somber tone while retaining the vintage warmth of analog technology. Overgrown Path didn’t necessarily hide its complexity—there’s all sort of embellishments, from lush piano tones and dazed wintry guitars, that gave life to Cohen’s isolated thoughts.
On Chris Cohen's second solo LP, As If Apart, the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist seems to be wandering through the gullies and gulfs of his own interior world, intermittently stopping to examine strewn fossils of '60s baroque pop, vintage AM gold, and the most placid strains of psychedelia. .
Arriving four years after his solo debut Overgrown Path, Chris Cohen's sophomore outing, As If Apart, is another impressive album of easygoing yet tightly wound psych pop gems. Cohen's calm, warm vocals deliver thoughtful lyrics describing memories, feelings, seasons, and scenes. They're colorful and descriptive, yet abstract and questioning. Musically, his songs feature gently swirling guitars and keyboards, and they alternate between slow, dreamy numbers and faster, jauntier ones.
The effortless and immediate appeal of Chris Cohen's 2012 debut, Overgrown Path, was virtually undeniable. The record emitted a sort of ethereal warmth that cocooned listeners in a pleasant vibe reminiscent of that spot in the park you love and only tell a select few about so as to protect its sanctity. This time around, on As If Apart, Cohen has occasionally upped the tempo and the psychedelia, resulting in several moments where I found myself wondering if I was listening to a Tame Impala record circa 2010.
Chris Cohen is the soundtrack for an idyllic summer holiday: the ideal accompaniment to lazy, hazy days under a cloudless sky with nothing on your mind beyond whether to have another mojito or where to go in the evening. His soft-focus psychedelic pastorales evoke a simpler time than the frenzied world we live in, and therein lies his escapist appeal. ‘As If Apart’ follows the template of his similarly bucolic 2012 solo debut ‘Overgrown Path’, shrouding his loosely constructed songs in a shimmering lo-fi shroud that makes everything sound as if it was recorded on his front porch, which it almost certainly wasn’t.