Kosmose – Kosmic Music from the Black Country

Posted: 25 January 2016 in Albums

Sub Rosa

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve long been an admirer of Sub Rosa’s releases: the label has a particular knack for uncovering weird and wonderful releases, and while not all of them are necessarily to my taste (the William Burroughs LP Break Through in Grey Room is very much my bag and absolute gold; the Charles Manson one less so: no-one would really care less about Manson’s frankly feeble musical efforts if he hadn’t attained global notoriety as a mass murder who implicated The Beatles in his infamous killing spree), their historical and musical value is undeniable. And so we have ‘Kosmic Music from the Black Country’, an archival retrospective of the little known but nevertheless near-mythical Kosmose spanning the years 1973-1978.

Built around the core nexus of Alain Neffe and Francis Pourcel (of SIC renown), Kosmose (more of a loose collective than an actual band) operated as an occasional live entity, playing exclusively around the Charleroi area of Belgium. They splintered in 1978 without leaving any officially released material to document their existence. It’s the kind of stuff of which legends are indeed made.

As their very name suggests, their music is far-out, spaced-out and experimental, a brain-frying amalgamation of krautrock, progressive rock and jazz. Some 40 years on, how do the recordings hold up? There’s a very real danger that a release like this could completely devastate the mystique and the myth. Perhaps the fact their appeal is niche and their legend very much confined to underground circles, there’s less of a risk of the hype overwhelming the output than, say, an undiscovered album by The Beatles, or Bowie, or even, say, King Crimson or Jethro Tull. Aficionados of wild wig-outs – those aware of the band by reputation – are, one might say, predisposed to appreciate these recordings, and will be ultimately thrilled rather than disappointed.

There are many of the standard elements of freeform prog / jazz improv in evidence; lengthy drum solos, prolonged passages of sparse hums interspersed with groans and shrieks of saxophone. There are no shortage of epic grooves. But there’s a lot more besides: this is inventive, atmospheric and psychotropic stuff. There are moments of subtle beauty. There are moments of explosive crescendos and shattering discord. It’s not always easy to tell what instrument is doing what. Swirling drones provide a shifting, shadowy backdrop to creeping flickers. Everything goes every which way, in all shapes and colours.

The tracks – all untitled – trip, swirl and weave into one another to form an immense, dense, whirling psychedelic trip. The recordings have a hazy quality, and the production values – such as they are – are very much of their time. And that’s integral to their appeal: it’s like unlocking a sonic time capsule that’s stored in someone’s brain.




Kosmose online at Sub Rosa

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