Now and again, we come across a band that creates soundscapes with so much intimacy, it makes categorising them into a given genre impossible. Instead, this expansive indie outfit go a long way towards creating their own. Through ritualistic interactions of percussion, electronics and transcendent lyrics, the Anglo-french quartet, who’ve set up stock in Cardiff, commits the listener, scantily clad, to an ecological saunter through a vegetated wilderness, governed by rhythm and minimalism.
Released on Glasstone Records, Cocoon Machina brings together the start of a working relationship between Draw Me Stories and Charlie Francis (mastermind of REM’s widely adventurous Up), who was drawn to the band’s expansive, sui-generis sound; a sound that is evident right from the outset. Seven minute opener Birdsong grows delicate guitar arpeggios and a shrewd, pulsing bass from a fertile foundation of tribal rhythm, instantaneously enveloping you in the virtual vegetated wilderness aforementioned. The recurring motif of the wild that is present throughout Cocoon Machina only serves to enhance this landscape, and take the listener further from the bedroom, living room or train carriage than the tribal chug has already taken you. It is safe to say that the architecture of Cocoon Machina would not be nearly as vivid without the longitude of the first bookend track; the temporal awareness of the track creates the scope that sets the scene for a new limb of indie music, and showcases the expansive nature of this intriguing album.
The body of the album comfortably avoids monotony and is a stringent metaphor to the saunter you’ll be taken on by Cocoon Machina. From a vivid first part that heightens all sense of intrigue, a more experimental middle section replicates the journey into the unknown that any eco-trip through an untouched expanse would undoubtedly be. In an era where the word ‘experimental’ is thrown around all too hastily, this band really does create a sound and an atmosphere that hasn’t yet been heard from any of Draw Me Stories’ indie counterparts. Lead single Animals incorporates a synchronized, mechanical electronica, mixing vestiges of Radiohead, Alt-J and Fleet Foxes in a pristine cauldron, while distorted vocals instigate a myriad of anticipation of what’s to follow.
As the album progresses, the unique nature of Draw Me Stories’ sound continues to prevail. The beautiful, two part nucleus of the record, Black Water Cave, brings the goosebumps out to play. Bursts of percussion and samples add splashes of colour to an appropriately monochrome acoustic riff, before Black Water Cave pt. 2 elaborates on its calmer counterpart with an increased sense of urgency, anchored by a bassline that emanates an immense sense of foreboding. Kaleidoscope is a fitting name for track 10, and the hypnotic, circular electronica will engulf you in its carousel of changing colours. The ominous wind that is We Saw Things (Without Our Faces) implies the saunter is approaching a conclusion. There is a more intense ritualism that oozes from the feeling of danger; perhaps replicating the meeting of a mythical creature in the resplendent atmosphere that the band has so artfully constructed. Second bookend track Blood Follows Grain, Grain Follows Blood acts as a hearty compliment to Birdsong; the closing track gently but assertively verifies the landscape Draw Me Stories have created and leaves you wondering where on Earth you have been for the past hour. It really is encapsulating stuff…
Draw Me Stories have created exactly what their name requests you do. They have, through minimalisticarchitecture, drawn a story that manufactures another place where normal ideals do not exist. Their readiness to create an album that is a departure from the usual format of so many indie records these days tells me that they are not afraid of alienating themselves within the paradigm, and that there is nothing fake about their songwriting. This is real creation, with no plagiarism and no ulterior motive. With an intense banquet of rhythm, an infectious amalgamation of discernible soundscapes and unadulterated originality, Cocoon Machina is a very impressive first effort. 77%.
*First published on No Ripcord*