James Cook – Adventures In Ausland

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There has always been an inescapable magnetism to the creativity and songs of UK singer/songwriter/producer James Cook, and the release of second solo album Adventures In Ausland certainly does not lose any of that imagination sparking prowess. In fact it takes it to new levels with tracks which are bred from even greater maturity and inventive expression in sound and lyrical enterprise. The new release reaps the masterful essences of its predecessor Arts & Sciences, evolving them into richer and more intricate textures and arrangements. The expected pop heart of Cook’s songs is still as infectious as ever but with no disrespect to what came before, it has grown up to offer even more compelling and invigorating explorations of his distinct English chamber rock.

First drawing attention with the band Nemo, which released a trio of well-received albums between 2004 and 2008, Cook has made a bigger impression matched by equally potent acclaim through his solo work. Between Nemo and Arts & Sciences, he also appeared in and wrote songs for numerous Mighty Boosh episodes, collaborated with Imogen Heap, and released the baroque pop album The Dollhouse with violinist/string arranger Anne Marie Kirby, who once again links up with Cook for the new release. The time between his outstanding 2012 solo debut and Adventures In Ausland, saw Reverse Engineering, Vol. One unveiled, a covers release revealing rich inspirations to the life and music of the musician with classic tracks interpreted and regenerated in his own inventive image. It was a thrilling insight into the man as well as simply an exciting encounter but it is his own work which gets the fires flaming brightly as proven again by the new album.

Two years in the making, with songs written in the likes of Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Genova whilst its recordings took place in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and London, Adventures In Ausland (Ausland the German word for abroad or elsewhere) brings in many ways an international breath to its still distinctly English sound. Certainly lyrically the album sizes up the world and its light and dark aspects whilst wrapped in an evolving invention which you feel can only come from the imagination of an Englishman. The release opens with the delicious Bees In November; its opening sigh of strings arranged by Cook and Kirby, an immediately evocative caress. They soon make way for a warm electronic and guitar enticing subsequently followed by a soft blaze of vibrant brass, all infesting ears and imagination with a sultry glow and vivacious temptation. The beats conjured by Tom Marsh add potent bait to the mix but it is the distinct voice of Cook and the continuing masterful call of the strings which steals the passions most forcibly. Both bring emotive intrigue and unpredictability to their invitations, lures sparking excitingly in thoughts and emotions, as well as the captivating body of the pop fuelled song.

The opener is swiftly matched by the following Lilly (A Lover’s Dream), a song which glides resourcefully through ears with melodic elegance and passionate reflection coloured by the mouth-watering weave of strings. There is an a3495452677_2element of The Divine Comedy and The Bluebells to the song, a spicing which flavours the light footed melodic waltz of the song. As mesmeric in charm and sound as it is sultry in ambience, the song is a glorious embrace with an air which transports thoughts into unique scenery as does the next up Financial Tango. There is a Morricone flame to the opening climate of the track, though soon making way for the punchy stride of the song and its thought jabbing narrative. That scorched flame of brass does reoccur across the pungent premise and body of the track frequently, stirring up senses and imagination as potently as the striking enterprise around it.

Both Dog Arms & Dilemmas and Art Deco, keep the flight of the album boldly varied and gripping, the first with its gentle wash of vocals and melodic enterprise soaked in a provocative heat of brass. Vocals layers lie slightly misaligned to each other at times for a pleasing ingenious and addictive tempting whilst the entanglement of strings and brass powerfully ignites air and ears with voracious passion. It is a smouldering treat of a proposition but one admittedly soon left looking a little pale by its successor. The fifth track feels the closest to the last album, its dance of sawing strings and quirky synth adventure within agitated rhythms and another great vocal call from Cook, a bridge between the two albums whilst pushing its smart pop sound to new levels. Broad hints of Thomas Dolby and XTC tease at thoughts as well as essences of David Bowie as the song flirts and seduces the imagination and emotions. It is a riveting and scintillating encounter which leaves an already greedy appetite hungrier.

   Bring Back The Boom offers a keys led stroll with a landscape of brass and lyrical incitement next, its atmospherically musty tone and shadowed premise an enthralling encounter, if lacking the spark of earlier songs slightly. It still leaves album and pleasure high as does the absorbing melancholic presence of The Blackout and the mischievous romp of Jamie with its swipe at misguided dreams and modern pop attitudes. The pair of songs again easily pushes thoughts into action whilst leaving ears basking in weaves of strings, brass, and melodies bred with a grandeur that only pure adult pop can conjure.

The wonderful call of Tideland with Cook at his most vocally potent on the album within a suggestive net of coaxing hooks and emotionally shadowed keys, comes next to bewitch senses and feelings. The rhythmic allurement of Marsh and the commanding strumming of Cook only accentuate the power of the majestic and increasingly towering track but it is the strings and vocals which drives the lingering tapestry of sound and imagination most potently. The impressive lure of the song is continued through closing track Ausland/Outside, a piece of beauty which envelopes and seduces ears with a thrilling maze of strings and vocals. It borders on disorientating at times but only to ignite the encounter and emotions to greater potency.

Adventures In Ausland is a very different album to its predecessor creating an even more striking and masterful proposition of pop fuelled, imagination driven drama. If James Cook is still a secret to be discovered for you, than this release is an introduction which can only lead to lustful pleasure.

Adventures In Ausland is available now @ http://jamescook.bandcamp.com/album/adventures-in-ausland

jamescookmusic.com

9/10

RingMaster 30/07/2014

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James Cook – Arts & Sciences

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.

www.jamescookmusic.com

RingMaster 07/10/2012

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