There’s always been place for bittersweetness in music; it resides in that space where happiness and sadness collide, and despite an innate sense of emptiness you can’t help but smirk. Gabriella Cohen‘s music encapsulates this feeling perfectly, and never more so on her brand new EP Updated Regurgitated Sever.
On Updated Regurgitated Sever, Gabriella Cohen sounds like she’s got her demons like everyone else, but she’s dealing with them at her own pace.
The Brisbane-based singer-songwriter has described her music as coma-pop, though Updated Regurgitated Sever is anything but coma-enducing. Sure I get the joke, it’s stripped back, spacious and sometimes runs at a pace that barely feels like it’s moving, but this all adds to it’s inherent charm – it’s captivating. The tracks creak and echo with an eerie coldness that make it sound like she has snuck into your bathroom in the middle of the night with a guitar and amp and just started crooning away – and as creepy as this sounds, it’s oddly comforting.
Cohen is one half of Brisbane indie-pop duo Furrs, who have had a pretty impressive 2014 themselves. The band, with Cohen singing lead-vocals, have a total Patti Smith vibe going, with half-spoken prose vocals that spit with vicious energy. Her solo work has a similar poetic feel, but more akin to something like Karen O on her 2014 record Crush Songs. It’s intimate but there also remains a steady sense of distance where it almost sounds like she off in her own world, singing to herself.
Lead track and EP opener Yesterday starts unexpectedly (given everything i’ve just said) with a one-off fuzz solo, which serves as the allusion to the constant sense of attitude that surrounds the following six tracks. Once the solo is out of the way, the track gives to a softly strummed ballad in which Cohen’s croon curls around like whips of smoke, seemingly coming from all directions. She uses reverb interestingly, where most of the time it’s used to give a track some warmth, here it is cold, as though it has creeped up from the musty crypts of some gothic cathedral.
Her voice isn’t delicate or restrained like so many of her fellows songstresses, but it has the attitude and confidence of a poet. “Well I don’t feel so alive, I might break down and cry, I read a book on my life, And it said that I don’t have to try” she breathes on Don’t Feel So Alive, but these words feel more like confessions that complaints. They sounds like a person sitting there trying to deal with their problems rather than barraging a listener with them.
Her biography vaguely refers to her being “Born and raised in strange communities around the world” and her music absolutely lends itself to this notion. It evokes of sense of vagrancy; of tracks written and recorded on a whim any where somewhere in the world for the pure reason that something had to be said, that an emotion had to be excavated. Feelin’ Fine, despite what the name might suggest, retains the bittersweet undertone of the previous tracks, with choral harmonies once again creating illusions of some ghostly church choir. Darlin’ is like some beautiful brainchild of Patti Smith and Devendra Banhart, with a creaky guitar weeping in the background and a tambourine lazily brushing somebody’s knee. The whole thing is sweetly melancholy with an inescapable sense of nostalgia that has persevered throughout the entire EP.
The EP closer and bonus track Hide All Your Money has a lofi psychedelic vibe, which would be absolutely killer if it were fleshed out as a Furrs track. But here, like the rest of the EP, is sounds like a ‘note-to-self’, it’s completely honest, free from all pretense. On Updated Regurgitated Sever, Gabriella Cohen sounds like she’s got her demons like everyone else, but she’s dealing with them at her own pace. There’s no harshness, no whinging, only her own reality – and that’s a difficult thing to make sound this cool.
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