Cocophone have been making ripples since the release of their 2010 EP ‘Special Offers’, a collection that showcased the folksy interplay between main players Fin Divilly and Freya Monks. Quietly intriguing, it was a brief glimpse of the dark themes and acoustic tones that the now five-piece band has expanded on for their début album ‘Reservoir’. Easing us in is the hymn-like intro to Seeing Daydreams, a gradual builder with Monks passing the vocals to Divilly as the organ recedes and the rhythm section propels it home.
There’s an ethereal beauty in the effortless slotting together of the vocals on these tracks, never more so on Hollow Trees, a standout track from ‘Special Offers’. “No-one goes there when its dark/ The branches play umbrella to the Wickerman’s work/ A place where the sun slides down” coo the duo, a nice line in vague fairytale nightmare imagery over a folky acoustic track. The harmonies impress throughout, adding weight to bizarre lyrics like “One day I’ll be the butter/ Soon I’ll be the bread” on Rivers, the meaning of which is beyond reach. I’ll assume it’s a good thing.
A slight mid-album lag is detectable where every now and then a sense of lethargy threatens to bring proceedings to a halt, but even on these numbers there are elements to inspire wonder. Sunburnt and Pull The Screw recall Massive Attack with their downbeat, trippy percussive effects, while those first few notes of On Sad Plains – just Monks and the bass – are simply sublime.
The embellishments by this expanded line-up are an understated triumph beneath the vocals. The restrained insistence of the drumming is forceful yet unobtrusive, while These Lungs, Our Ocean especially is bolstered by fantastic violin work. Sights and sounds of the city saga Borrowed Walk begins in relaxed fashion, becoming more urgent as the strings elevate it, particularly the broader strokes at the end. A world populated by magicians, dustbin drummers and scumbags, this love note to the city is one of the low key, grand offerings on Reservoir. Special Offers II similarly trips along nicely after the languid tunes that precede it -The Beatles via Britpop – while piano-led closer Selling Bodies is Bowie-esque with a ghostly backing vocal; it’s a bit epic, this one.
A majestic mid-tempo anchor line runs through the album, songs occasionally disentangling from it to recede into a softer hue or erupt for a grand finale. Admittedly some of these louder moments sail perilously close to Snow Patrol territory, but manage to pull back before any lasting damage is done. Reservoir is a record to delve into and soak up the organic playing and interwoven vocal work, at times downbeat and dark but like the EP that preceded it, never less than intriguing.