Woo - It's Cosy Inside

by Daryl Worthington Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-08-29

It's Cosy Inside is a reissue of Woo's 1989 second album. Information on the band is somewhat scarce, but I've managed to glean that they are made up of two brothers, and they're British. The album itself is a bizarre mix of electronic and sequenced parts, pastoral psychedelia similar to that practiced by Popul Vuh, and occasional forays into jazz and funk grooves. It seems quite appropriate that information on its creators is hard to come by. Such an eccentric album befits such a mystique.

One of the most striking features of this album is the way it has been structured and the nature of the songs. The album is made up of 17 tracks, each a few minutes long. Each track seems to analyse a particular theme or idea. Second track 'The Western' is built on echoey strummed acoustic guitar and whistling melodies which sound like they could be the soundtrack to a John Wayne film.

'Downtown Suburbia' is built on bleepy synths and drum machine, sounding a bit like a drunk Kraftwerk. Again, it conjures up images that reflect the title of the piece. John Cage once said about the music of Erik Satie that the key to truly appreciating it was to treat each piece as a sculpture, ignoring linear chronological progression to focus on static details. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I feel a good metaphor for It's Cosy Inside is a photo album. Each piece feels like it is built around a fixed image, which is explored and then moved on from. Once one gets to the end of it, one can start to construct some sort of narrative. (As when getting to the end of a photo album, one constructs a series of connections in one's mind between the images.)

Right from the opening track, 'Into', an immediately striking aspect of this album is its seamless fusion of synthesized and natural instruments. The track has a bouncing synth-loop reminiscent of Sowiesoso-era Cluster, but this is accompanied with folky sounding acoustic guitar flourishes. It's similar to early Four Tet albums, in the way that elements from electronic music are played alongside acoustic instruments and a broad swath of samples, in such a way as to make the separation between the them almost impossible to locate. The fact that this was done in 1989 gives the album an almost anachronistic quality. Many of the individual elements used obviously pre-date its 1989 release. However, the approach to putting it all together seems strikingly modern.

The individual components of the tracks are easily traced, from spacey backwards guitar on 'Upside Down' to the almost porn soundtrack sounding 'Purple Pussy' with its wah-wah guitar and languid groove. However, the weird idiosyncrasy of its composition and compilation make it sound like it was constructed in isolation from any prevailing trend. One can imagine the two brothers sequestered away, painstakingly bouncing ideas of each other.

Unfortunately, this can have the effect of making the album seem something of a curiosity, an experiment with genres rather than an attempt to make an emotional connection and this may limit its appeal. Overall, Woo seem to fit quite nicely into the lineage of British eccentrics, creating an album with a sense of fun, lofty ambition and just the right amount of weird.

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