(Silent X Recordings)
This early 2000s act returns with a new album and adding a letter to their group name. Cousteaux is in essence a duo of deep-voiced singer originally from Cork Liam KcKahey plus Davey Ray Moor, and Aussie born in Beirut.
Moor takes care of the instrumentation, much of the writing and arranging. So the notion is to showcase Liam’s voice, really and on a couple of cuts on this release they are assisted by dandy bohemian Carl Barat, whose appearance at the Union Chapel Benefit for Refugees I much enjoyed, for its hint of bravado and emphatic song delivery. All the semi-dramatic song-deliverers like Barat, Almond and McKahey here have a beacon and it is Scott Walker..himself marinated in Jacques Brel. In fact if you like Walker and, say, The Blue Nile..you have found your dream act in this current incarnation of CousteauX. No, don’t thank me. Unlike other electronica-tinged duo’s like Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys this pair do not rely on robot beats. They would rather use insistent tapping acoustic piano’s and Twin Peaks tremelo’d amp electric guitars. Much of the music sounds as though it’s looking for a monochrome film to enhance. the rich and reverbed Bacharach brass elements make you think that Rita Tushingham or Michael Caine might soon wander into view, maybe by a canal or at a deserted park bandstand. Musical melancholy rules…..
Memory Is A Weapon has its own atmosphere, tinkling piano et al and it’s curiously reminiscent of Macarthur Park in delivery. This Might Be Love utilises a steady snare on a welcome brisker song. Burma really has the SW vibe about, the prodding piano evoking The Blue Nile, the trumpet break attaining elegance over the strings. The hint of falsetto is well handled by this excellent singer and somehow the composition bottles joy and nostalgia. Some reference Nick Cave on this act but no. it’s closer to prime Midge Ure who writes a lot less self-consciously than Cave ever does. As full-blooded laments go this will take some beating. Burma was a soldier’s acronym in missives home – ‘Be Upstairs Ready My Angel’..just a thought. More romantic than Byfas….
The Innermost Light has your reviewer listening closely to discern the instrumentation, initially bouzuki-like but then more like string percussion, maybe even the cymballum used by John Barry in the Harry Palmer films. It sounds like Barat singing in his Bayswater croon “ spider webs glisten “, he intones. It sure is looking for a film to open. The baritone guitar on tremelo setting has a trilling six-string overlaid, with traffic-jam horn blares..it’s almost OTT but attains a Bowiesque spookery, somehow. Maybe You sports an almost practice piano scale start and the airy singing shifts semitones for a winsome effect. Portobello Serenade and its lyrical electric guitar is the platform for a more laidback breathy vocal and circling vulture trumpet. A very nice tune, this one. A bed of dirty guitars and Bowie style singing makes Thin Red Lines my favourite cut, maybe it’s that lovely piano…
Shelter sets off on an almost hiphop tempo but uses an ethereal chorale and that Alpert trumpet to good result. Seasons Of You bears a steady Bread-style intro and a lovely Liam vocal set against that tremelo’d guitar, very Walker Brothers in feel. But then who’s doing that now in pop? Most deeper voices are heard in jazz and roots settings, mine certainly. There’s a catchy chorus, here. The title of F***ing In Joy And Sorrow will preclude any Songs Of Praise exposure. Here the vocal is striking, not too deep whilst the guitar chording is insistent but delicate.
They probably address this aspect live but there is a desperate need for some brisker, rockier tracks, for balance. Just a couple would have made this album even better but what we do have here is haunting, involving, tuneful and suffused with quiet bite. Which moves CousteauX far from Cowellville into the land of the discerning listener.
(Thanks Sacha and the Hush team)
You can watch the official music video for ‘The Innermost Light’ in this article.
CousteauX’s self-titled album ‘CousteauX’ is out now on Silent X Recordings.
You can purchase the album on Amazon UK here: http://amzn.to/2xF47b8
For more information visit their official website here: http://bit.ly/2xJyVcr