Arts & Sciences, the debut album from singer/songwriter/producer/video artist James Cook, is nothing short of marvellous. Imaginative and enchantingly intriguing the release immerses thoughts and senses into vibrant and emotive sonic weaves of baroque electro pop which are never less than compulsive and always warmly engaging. It is a glorious result of imagination and thought brought into impassioned union and whether a rampant slice of pop or a hazy stretch of emotional elegance leaves one gliding upon beautifully crafted and irresistible flights of aural warmth.
The album is said to be the creative rebirth of Cook who previously fronted and was the songwriter for cult Indie electro group Nemo, who released three acclaimed albums between 2004 and 2008 and won the Montreaux Jazz Festival award for best new band in 2007. He also appeared in and wrote songs for numerous Mighty Boosh episodes around the same time and collaborated with Imogen Heap as both her support act and backing band. The end of this period though saw Cook relocate to Berlin and disband Nemo. Whilst 2009 brought the release of the baroque pop curio The Dollhouse with violinist/string arranger Anne Marie Kirby, who also handles the string arrangements on the new album. Across that winter and into the following year Cook locked himself away in the snow clad Turmwerk studios of friend Chris Corner (IAMX). There Arts & Sciences evolved and across the year he worked on and recorded the release interspersed with European tours with IAMX, solo tours and more across Europe, finishing it in his own home before returning to Turmwerk for final mixing, mastering etc.
With many singles leading into the album anticipation for the full length has been eager and no one will be disappointed in this stunning and delicious piece of passion, vision, and pop. Musically the album has a nostalgic breath brought through modern ideas and creativity. As the songs caress and thrill it is impossible not to be reminded of the electro pop warmth of Thomas Dolby, the quirkily entangled pop of The Cure, the acidic lyricism of Julian Cope and the melodic beauty of Black. To that you have the drama and emotive quality of Fatima Mansions drenching each song, the total combination unique and deeply thrilling.
The Self Machine opens things up with a slice of agitated electro pop, its simmering electricity grazing the sonic spotlights of sound and infectious heart of the song. It is an immediate joy, its charms pushing all the right buttons for voice and limbs participation and the trigger to full engagement. There are plenty of sneaky little abrasions going on to bring depth to the song whilst firing up further rapture for its burning appeal.
The following Government Kid shimmers in the air before teasing the ear with flames of pulsing synth kisses and keenly stroking guitars. The chorus is as catchy as a fever with the song itself an equal at leaving a smouldering heat within the senses through its mesmeric weaves and acidic energies. Within two songs the album feels like something special, the rest of the release only confirming that promise.
As the next in line songs Wrong Empire and End Of Summer captivate thought and soul completely submission of the heart is confirmed. The first is a stunning piece of dramatic pop with the breathtaking strings of The Dollhouse Strings pure beauty, the arrangement of Kirby perfection in capturing and translating the heart and passion of the song. There is a Scott Walker feel to the track and such the mesmerism conjured the song feels like it is over before it begins. The other song is a slowly brewing piece of aural melodrama, its dramatic breath and imposing shadows leaving lungs and heart gasping for air.
The delightful Selling Ideas with its critical whispers seeming like the natural offspring from the songwriting of Andy Partridge sets one up perfectly for the pulse beat of the title track. Sheer Dolby in essence the song actually feels, with this not meant as a flaw, as if it was a swiftly borne song, its energy and triumphant electronic swagger organic and uncomplicated, a sonic roll off the tongue of imagination.
The album continues to soar through the skies of quality and invention through songs like the darkly covered Black Market Futures and the ELO like string guided Face To Face, which like the closer Circus Of Our Lives are the only songs not entirely written by Cook, with Kirby sharing the impressive creativity.
Arts & Sciences is immense, a truly magical release which only improves and enriches the ardour with consequent meetings. If any of the references mentions raise a spark in your passions then James Cook and his album will be your next deepest pleasure.
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