As a self-described connoisseur of down-tempo music for well over a decade now, I am used to seeing Chris Coco's name pop up all over the place. He is well-known for DJ'ing both dance and chillout sessions in Ibiza and beyond, and even more so as a remixer on any number of chill compilations. The list of tracks Coco has remixed over years is extensive, but two that I come back to over and over are Afterlife's â€œHomeâ€ from their 2006 release â€œThe Afterlife Loungeâ€ and his rework (with Rob da Bank) of last year's â€œSunshine Philosophyâ€ by Future Loop Foundation.
Moving above and beyond his artistry in remixing other folk's tracks, Coco (aka Chris Mellor) released his own album â€œHeavy Mellowâ€ in 2005. Beautifully written, produced and mastered, â€œMellowâ€ became an overnight hit with people like me who swoon over majestic pads, ambient strings, smooth vocals and chunky basslines. If you haven't heard it, grab the CD but wait and listen when you're feeling mellow, perhaps even slightly hungover, on a Sunday morningâ€”preferably not alone.
Chris has now tacked a different direction as producer, singer and guitarist with his new band City Reverb. City Reverb's first album â€œLost City Folkâ€ is due out in September 2008 and features 12 tracks that merge Coco's early work in gritty acid jazz with the smoother sounds from his past decade. The band also features Micky Bucherri (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Nick Cornu (guitar, keyboard and apparently anything else he can get his hands on.)
On "Lost City Folk" you can definitely detect the influence of musicians that informed Coco's early careerâ€”New Order and Kraftwerk in particular. Some of the tracks remind me of Wings-era McCartney, before he gave up rock-and-roll for pure pop. The album fuses electronic music with live elements that work to create an atmospheric sound Coco calls â€œRobot Soulâ€. There are layers upon layers of otherworldly backup vocals, superb guitar work, electrifying build-ups and this being Chris Coco, ass-kicking basslines.
This album is intentionally less refined than Coco's earlier work and the title â€œLost City Folkâ€ sets the stage for what you'll hear. There are several ballads about the burned-out, drugged up, lost cause-types that you'll find in any city. But the best songs on the album are the more uplifting tracks, in particular â€œCity of Lightsâ€ of which remixes are already in the works by Reverso 68, Beards of Paradise and Dr. Strangelove.
The album opens beautifully with â€œEverything Will Be Alrightâ€, a track in which I detected a channeling of Neil Young's voiceâ€”not perfect, but perfectly moving. Further along, â€œCentral Heatingâ€ is 80's New Wave-inspired pop with a hook that will be playing in your head for days and a guitar riff that will set your toes tapping whether you want them to or not. Among the ballads, the one that best reflects the grittiness conjured in the album title is â€œGhetto Glamourâ€, a love song about a down-on-their-luck urban couple dreaming of the unattainable riches locked behind shop windows.
â€œTime Side Onâ€ is another smooth rock number that self-referentially claims that â€œsoon this song will break your heartâ€. The only thing I love more than chilled rock is self-referential art, so this one is a winner in my book. And I couldn't help but love â€œHedonistâ€ with its updated New Wave sound and lyrics about East End hedonists meeting West End hedonists. As an American with limited London time under my belt, I can't help but hear the Pet Shop Boys in those words, but this tune is edgier, grittier and darker than the hit by those other British blokes.
On the final track, â€œDrinking Songâ€ (the most minimalist of the lot), Coco sings that â€œyou're bound to win because I'm born to loseâ€. Fitting lyrics for â€œLost City Folkâ€ but pure fiction: Chris Coco is anything but a loser, and you've hit a winning number if you pick this album up. I'm looking forward to hearing more from City Reverb and any project Coco gets his hands on.