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The Cosmic ArrayThe Cosmic Array
Album: Islands
Label: Folkwit
Tracks: 11

Anything which is released on Folkwit Records gets the thumbs up from me. The Cosmic Array retrun with their second album, the line up boosted to nine players contributing to the songs in various combinations and bolstered on this album by American singer-songwriter and resident of South Wales, Abby Sohn.

The music comes housed in a cover which looks like a blend of Roger Dean's famous floating islands and Monty Python/Terry Gliiam style cut and pasting in a vaguely Dali style. Get the idea? The music follows a similar path with their sci-fi themed alt country/Americana influences. Not a bad description really if you're trying to pop The Cosmic Array into a pigeon hole, but immediately regret trying to do so as a whole compendium of sounds and textures washes over you.

First impressions are that this is an album you want to get out right at his time of year - the start of Spring and then pack away for the winter months. It has that open airy sort of feel that has to be the soundtrack of lazy and balmy days(or as near as dammit, bearing in mind the English weather). From 'All I Am' opening the album, there's the relaxed sort of shuffling rhythm and gently picked acoustic guitars you get from a band like Stornoway alongside the first of several appearances of pedal steel which always gives a song that tranquil and casual vibe. 'Fire Up The Sky' moves into more dream pop territory

More genre denying than genre defining - by the time 'Drones' has finished its journey of electronic and industrial noisescape, there can't be too many boxes which haven't been ticked; travelling through the tender and sensitive to the psychedelic influenced distortion of 'Sea Of Tranquility' (not what you'd glean from the song title) and then the lo-fi loose arrangement lounge jazz jam of 'Comely Angel'. Any attempt to accuse 'Islands' of lacking variety gets washed out on a tide of soothing synths.

With founder member and main guitarist/vocalist Paul Battenbough taking charge of the vast majority of songwriting while production and mixing duties are taken care of by keyboard player Mat Wigley, the band are pretty self sufficient. Not only that, they seem to be pleasing themselves with what they do, which is probably what matters most, and have assembled a set of songs which is a real experience.

Mike Ainscoe