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COH - 0397Post - Pop

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Artist: COH

Album: 0397Post - Pop

Label: Mego

Review date: Apr. 28, 2005

This double album comprises COH’s earliest and latest recordings, but it makes sense to put them together. Both discs gravitate to one corner of the Russian-born, Swedish based electronic musician’s sonic map. By contrast, COH’s (given name Ivan Pavlov) last album, the double LP Seasons (Idea), encompassed pensive quasi-classical piano and head-banging metal guitar. Both of 0397Post – Pop’s CDs are devoted to the same sort of minimal techno found on his previous Mego release Mask of Birth. But even though COH works within one province of his domain, that doesn’t make this record easy to figure out. Behind its polished surfaces and stark structures, little is obvious.

COH was a well-connected unknown when he originally distributed the 97 disc to his friends in a hand-made edition of seven. Amongst the recipients were Carsten Nicolai, head of Raster-Noton records, and the guys in Coil. COH’s aesthetic was already in place. He takes material from the pop domain (some of the sounds on these two CDs could have been sampled straight off of Lipps INC’s “Funkytown”) and rearranges it so that the elements take on new, hard-to-divine meanings. The early music’s construction is as parsimonious as its original distribution plan; within a piece, COH works and reworks the same ground, each time heading in a slightly different direction. The commas in the title “El, Hombre, Invisible” correspond to the track’s structure of brief segments, each suddenly arrested, laid over a pulse that fades and returns. On “Wasp Wisp,” tiny fragments of not-quite-melody poke out of an electro rhythm that COH recycles, minimally modified, throughout the piece. Sometimes the titles add to the inscrutability; yes, “Tesla Dance,” um, dances, but what connection it has to either the scientist or the rock band, only COH knows. Other times they bring things into focus. Both the light beats that patter through “Morphine Twinge” and the wavering tones that frame them seem to retreat rather than evolve; then the sounds sharpen to a needle-like point, followed by a slow fade to oblivion.

The 03 disc employs some of the same elements, but it’s at once more streamlined and diverse. The bass is more muscular, the range of sounds wider, and the edits contribute to the forward momentum rather than bounce the music backward. That said, he puts the title track’s reprise before the title track. You could say that 03 is more accessible than 97, but line up COH’s references and you’ve got one weird array of pop junk. It’s easy to imagine that the title of the pummeling “665.9F (Hot Like Hell)” is a tip of the laptop lid to Ryoji Ikeda’s 0 Degrees C, given that both men work with similarly pared-down electronic rhythms. But why does COH deploy dropped-stylus thumps around a distant scrap of Mia Farrow’s voice on “Da Kota Rap?” And what to make of “Untitled Smash Hit,” which opens with a floppy rhythm reminiscent off the loop that churns through the Tall Dwarfs’ “Turning Brown + Torn In Two,” then somersaults into a pattern that could have scored one of the more white-knuckled sequences of Run Lola Run. How does it all fit together? Does it fit together? How?

By Bill Meyer

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