Posts Tagged ‘cowman’

After a lengthy hiatus from 2013 to making a return to the fray this summer, Benjamin Heal’s Cowman alter ego is back with a vengeance: hot on the heels of the Crunch’ EP, which was essentially the salvage from an aborted album project, we have a full-length album proper in the form of Slaughter.

The title may or may not be a fairly off-the-cuff and easy reference to its being recorded at a studio by the name of The Slaughterhouse – evidently not the one in Driffield, favoured by Earache acts back in the day, since it was destroyed by a fire in the 90s – but it equally seems appropriate to the tense, tortured atmosphere that pervades this release.

Kicking off energetically with ‘Hydrant’, this is the sound of Cowman reinvigorated. It’s still gloriously lo-fi, and still warrants Pavement comparisons I effortlessly tossed at its predecessor, but this carries the unbridled excitement of those early EPs which preceded Slanted. But moreover, it’s fuller, scuzzier, dirtier, somehow more adrenalized, and also more frenetic, more angular, as if Trumans Water had witnessed the apocalypse. In this sense, it’s very much a return to the gnarly grind of 2013’s Artificial Dissemination and Palpating the Rumen (2009).

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This tension carries on into ‘Rinka’, two and a quarter minutes of multi-layered mumbling vocals largely submerged beneath a hefty chug of rhythm guitar and a lead guitar that just about carries a motif, but wanders and around as if half-blinded and disoriented by a spinning compass on a map that’s missing bits.

‘Blackstock’ is a full-on wall of sound, the mangled vocals echoing impenetrably in a churning cyclical riff, and it’s not until ‘Kissing the Rock with Eyes’ that we get something approximating a groove, but even then, it’s impossible to settle into it for long. The beat may be vaguely baggy, but it’s urgent, thwacked out at a hundred miles an hour while the guitars are cracked up, overdriven and grungy. Something has happened here, and perhaps perusing the 2010 Cowvers album, which includes rough-as-fuck renditions of songs by Big Black, The Fall, yes, Trumans Water gives a clue of the roots to which Cowman is returning to here, but there’s also a newfound sense of purpose here, as if there’s a real need to channel some post-pandemic angst into big, bad, noise.

‘Itch’, clocking in at a minute and forty-one is pure Big Black, with a squall of treble-to-the-max guitar clanging over a pummelling blast of drum machine, before the dark, dank mass of the lumbering closer, ‘Wichita Black Sun’ rolls in and mines a mid-tempo motoric groove for over a quarter of an hour. The nagging monotony is integral to the experience, like a feedback-strewn reimagination of Lard’s ‘Time to Melt’ and the entire back catalogue of Terminal Cheesecake pulped into a single document.

While ‘Crunch’ was fun, Slaughter feels like the real Cowman. It’s not an easy or accessible record; in fact, it probably requires four stomachs to fully digest, but it’s a magnificent set of dingy alt-rock noise with firm roots in the early 90s, the likes of which is rare these days, yet seems fitting for these challenging times.

Listen EXCLUSIVELY to album tracks ‘’Blackstock’ and ‘Sticks, Stones, Fingers and Bones’ here:

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27th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The multi-talented, multi-discipline and perhaps, sometimes, not-so-disciplined Benjamin Heal returns in his Cowman guise, under which he’s been operating since 2005 with a new EP, his first in a decade, after previous creative detours with Coaxial and various other projects.

Over the course of a sporadic and low-key career, li-fi, slackerist Cowman has – impressively, whether by fluke or by design – appeared on bills with a slew of cred cult acts, including Ack Ack Ack, Gum Takes Tooth, Cove, Pifco, and John Parish. These notable highlights are well-deserved, but it’s a pleasure to witness cowman making a comeback, instead of simply revelling over former achievements.

Crunch is a magnificently loose knockabout and if Pavement comparisons may seem lazy shortcuts, they’re also entirely justified. But then… then… there’s a whole lot more. The first track, ‘Concrete Eyes # Turpentine’ , with its inexplicable punctuation, starts out a fairly straightforward, if angular indie kicker in the vein of Slanted era Pavement, with wonky, off-kilter guitars that sound vaguely out of key, but then spins off into an epic swirling expanse of psychedelic post-rock. The whole thing is almost ten minutes long, drifting into a long, sluggish drone in the final minutes.

There’s an easygoing picked guitar line that contrasts with jittery drums on ‘Concrete pink Dots’ before the distortion kicks in, and it does so hard, creating a dense whorl of noise that almost buries the drums, until they surrender to the barrage of din, and we find ourselves drifting in a cloud of hazy shoegaze guitar. It’s mellow, but it’s loud, and that’s where the hypnotic ‘Bloody Diffuser’ picks up as it embarks on another ten-minute sonic journey, a slow-smouldering soundscape heavy on delay and reverb. Switching through a succession of segments, where the transitions are jolting, flicking changes rather than seamless transitions, it’s by turns doom drone and psychedelic drone, but ultimately, it’s all the drone – and that’s a good thing.

Ordinarily, two versions of one song on the same release feels a bit lazy, but then again, I spent the 90s buying singles on three formats in order to obtain all the versions and B—sides, and I have a hunch that Benjamin is also well-versed in the maxi-single and the like, and it so happens that the cropped version of ‘Tobacco Eyes’ that rounds it off actually feels like a single that had it been released circa 92 would have been lauded in the press as being in the vein of Pavement and Truman’s Water. And in fairness, that’s just as true in 2022.

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