It seems rather fitting that I revisit this recent gem this week, as last night should have provided spectacular spacey visuals courtesy of a meteor shower that turned out to be almost entirely obscured by the rainclouds that have covered Manchester since time immemorial, although I think I may have spotted two at about 1 this morning, so job’s a good ‘un. Because Kosmos, as the name implies, are a more than capable of evoking all things stellar. 24 hours later, I’ve just been outside and it’s still raining. According to the news, my home village is slightly under water (and, if a friend is to be believed a small amount of raw sewage into the bargain), although it’s dark now so I’ll just have to take their word for it.
Coming from the Frenchiest part of Canada, Kosmos is an outfit who describe themselves as prog-rock-avant-garde-kraut-post-punk, and in all honesty that’s a description that pretty much works in some very odd and delightful ways.
The band’s logo should give those in the know a small thrill, as it is the unmistakable style of Voivod Michel ‘Away’ Langevin, legendary drummer with Voivod (and, as I have just found out, briefly with Men Without Hats if the internet is telling the truth). Alongside him are Alex Crow of Tricky Woo, Vincent Peake from Grim Skunk and a guitarist from Paradise known as Jetphil – all accomplished musicians with a taste for the extraordinary, so a proggy krautrock psychedelic punky affair should give them ample room to show off their chops and expand their ideas fully.
From the retro-electronic intro to first track Psycho, Kosmos are onto a winner. The thing with prog for me is that it sort of reminds me of a concept car – constructed of ideas and inventions assembled in a manner that probably wouldn’t (or in some cases, shouldn’t) go into actual production. Here, full exploration of ideas never gives way to self-indulgence, with no track outstaying its welcome or getting bogged down in anything unnecessary – the punk aspect to Kosmos’ sound sees to that very nicely.
It’s a wonderfully-varied album. There are a few ’70s-influenced prog-rock bombasts, a couple of krauty-experimental keyboard explorations, one or two mellow space jams, two wonderfully unhinged Euro post-punk songs (the only two vocal tracks on the record) with French vocals reminiscent to these ears of whoever it was that actually did all of Plastic Bertrand’s singing if recent news revelations are correct. All of this is held together by all four bandmembers’ performances all seemingly expanding in complete synchronicity.
And the best is held back until last, with the huge Messe Noire, a piece that brings back memories of The Old Grey Whistle Test and any one of a number of Dutch rock outfits having the time of their lives, or maybe ELP when they weren’t being too silly, and the song that first hooked me in the first place – appearing as it did one night as a myspace friend request and played over and over again until about 3am. Such songs and their ability to just corkscrew their way into the gleeful part of the subconscious are very rare for me, and it’s something I go back to whenever I feel that I’m far too bored of listening to music anymore and need to know why I love doing so.
It’s probably not to everyone’s taste, but for those who like something a little bit different or who just fancy a bit of a listen to the sort of thing that rarely gets any airplay nowadays, it’s a great fun and fondly recalls a style of music without reverting to all the wizardy bits that killed it off in the first place.
Also, it joins that elite of clubs (to be honest, I can only think of Black Sabbath off the top of my head, so more entrants welcome!) where the band have a song of the same title on a self-titled album. So, hats off to Kosmos by Kosmos on Kosmos!