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Anna Coogan Anna Coogan
Album: The Lonely Cry of Space and Time
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

If you like your alt-folk or, indeed, alt-opera with a capital ALT then "The Lonely Cry of Space and Time" could be the album you have been waiting for. This album is different, it is also very good.

Bostonian singer- songwriter Anna Coogan has had a long and convoluted journey to get to this point, combining her classical opera training with listening to albums by Ochs and Dylan. Spells with an alt-country band and writing scores for historic silent films have given her and drummer / collaborator Willie B (Brian Wilson) an enormous range of music to draw upon. She's also a music teacher and the album credits include Canen, the teenage prodigy who was once her pupil and called on both Anna and Willie for her d├ębut EP. It may also be the only album in history to have been inspired by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Loiusiana.

"The Lonely Cry of Space and Time" is plea for tolerance to a world that seems intent on destroying itself and Coogan is not afraid to use her three octave soprano voice to launch into punchy, passion filled lyrics dealing with a range of issues affecting the planet and its population today. The message is driven home by an accompaniment of drums, guitars, Moog and synthesizers; this is certainly not traditional folk yet the subjects sit firmly within the genre.

The first, and title track, sets the scene. Opening with drums and keys, Anna's voice gently leads us into a vision of space and the dawn of time which appears empty and yet is full with the darkness begetting light from starts and galaxies. At 5:34 this is almost the longest track on the album so she has time to build the crescendo of sound typical of the album, with her voice swooping freely around the music. The central theme is that we are here, and observing, but through science and rational thought and this is where LIGO comes in. It measures gravitational waves travelling thorough space and the waves it picks up are turned into an audio signal which is sampled at the end of the piece.

To experience the full range of Anna's voice then the third track "Burn For You" is the one to head for. This draws on Anna's background and starts sounding as if it could be a Country number which doesn't last for long. The semi-chorus becomes pure opera with her voice doing things that grip the listener as Anna explores unrest and the breakdown of society in the Middle East, of reaching to those who are lost and dispossessed and need somebody to stand up for them, to burn for them if necessary.

The album moves easily across styles. "Last Exit" is instrumental prog rock that segues into "Sylvia". This song is about the poet Sylvia Plath, whose tempestuous life can still be seen as a source of inspiration or even comfort

There are darker pieces, too. "Meteor" is track about self-destruction and burning too bright whilst crashing to the ground and disaster. It's also probably the most pop oriented song on the album, but hiding its words behind a almost bubblegum disco beat. That is something else you need to know when approaching this album. It needs to be listened to, this is not background music. To fully appreciate it you have to concentrate and think to get maximum value.

"The Lonely Cry of Space and Time" probably isn't an album for everyone. If you like your genres neatly defined then is not for you but if you are willing to throw away preconceptions about what music is then you find find art that will both challenge and reward in equal measure.

Tony Birch