- by Laurence Schiffman Rating:8 Release Date:2016-10-28 Label: Idée Fixe
New Latitudes – The Cosmic Range - The Real Deal
If there is any fairness in the Universe, and to be honest I don't believe there is, “The Cosmic Range” are going to attract some listeners. And devoted listeners it will have to be, because their music is not meant to be enjoyed in the background, nor is it diluted by vocals or lyrics. Instead what you get on their new album are six instrumentals, most ranging well over five minutes in length that borrow from Jazz, Psychedelia, and Classical influences. Music is language, and new sound expressions require exposure and familiarization to be appreciated. “New Latitudes” deserves the effort. This is an ambitious undertaking by the Cosmic Range, and largely successful.
This sort of music has to impact emotionally as well as aesthetically. To me this means that one does not have to ascribe a meaning or intent, or a story behind the music. Instead a listener's attention is grabbed and he or she is left with some sort of visceral reaction.
The album opens with what is perhaps the easiest piece to wrap one's head around. “Morning, Ontario” dawns (pun intended) as an aural approximation of the sounds and sights of its title. The instruments arrive slowly and deliberately, volume gradually increases and one can imagine the arrival of new day. This is tricky territory since it is clearly derivative of earlier efforts at much the same idea, some done over a hundred years earlier. Regardless it is an effective introduction to what the group is trying to accomplish.
There are a few common qualities, of virtually all the pieces that deserve mentioning. Each is minimalistic with a short melodic pattern that is repetitive, often hypnotic, and serves for the improvisation that follows its introduction. The group likes to use rhythmic patterns as a hook to draw the listener into the music. One will recognize guitar, horns, synthesizer, and percussion, but often in a clearly distorted and electronic incarnation. With the exception of “Barbara”, the shortest piece on the album at just over 2 minutes, all the music could fairly be described as mostly melodic.
“Look at What Our Love has Done” concludes the album with a lovely piano mood piece, interlaced with vocal overlays, that at eight and a half minutes I think is the bravest effort (and indisputably longest) on the album. It is not easy to hold a listener's attention for that long, but the haunting beauty of the theme succeeds.