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EP Review: Gabriella Cohen 'Updated Regurgitated Sever'

Do you ever look back at your life and wonder how you got to where you are? Ever questioned the decisions you’ve made and the paths you chosen to take? Ever felt that pang of regret or wonder at the decision you did or didn’t make that made an impact so significant on your life that you wonder. Wonder what if? A lover, a move, a job, a trip?

Until the twentieth century, nostalgia was considered a psychopathological disorder. The manic longing for a thing or place that once existed, distorted by memory over time. Everyone’s life is a mess. It’s not about sculpting a perfect existence and hitting the finish button, it’s about a series of unrelated actions resulting in the situation you call your life today. There is no big picture, no hidden agenda, just a load of things that happen. Though for some this will never be enough, some people embrace the chaos, relish in disorder and thrive in the unknown.

When you listen to Gabriella Cohen’s music it seems pretty clear that she is one of them. In her own words “I don't really start out with a concept so to speak I just write the songs at various times and realise that I should release it and stick it as an EP”.

When not performing as one half of blues rock act The Furrs, Brisbane’s Gabriella Cohen performs in a far more minimal context as a solo artist, with this EP following last year’s album “dedicated: to you”. Sharing more in common with the ramshackle nineties anti folk scene than the garage rock of The Furrs, her music is stripped back to its bare bones drenched in reverb, attitude and dissonant contrast.

Take the opening track Yesterday, perhaps the least accessible track on the EP, with its chorus drenched sound coming across as an atonal Juliana Barwick, before a harmonised warm chorus catches you off guard with a lilting elegance. It’s a bold opening statement, almost the opposite of the transitional Bitter Blues which opened Gabriella’s debut album, and one which creates a greater distance from her work as part of The Furrs. Divisive as it is, it’s a simple summation of the contrasts Gabriella embraces and keeps her work interesting.

Following swiftly on, the title track is a stripped back take on the 60s girl-group pop template drenched in reverb making the apt suggestion to the listener to, “close up your eyes and think to a time that was better”. However, just as you think the song is ready to continue along its relatively predictable path, the entire sound strips down to a reed organ to play the song out before leaving as suddenly as it arrived. Don’t Feel So Alive and Feelin’ Fine are relatively down the line in comparison, recalling the best years of Devendra Banhart and Herman Dune. EP highlight Feelin’ Fine in particular stands out, with its melancholy undertone “Go your separate ways and let it take a load off you” exemplified by luscious vocal harmonies exploring the age old cliches of love and the pain it entails.

Gabriella fully embraces the nostalgia of the eras she explores on this EP, but her impatient collage effect to songwriting gives it all her own identifiable fingerprint which brings you back for repeated listening. There’s a chaos to this all with each song ending in a way that belies an impatience to move on to the next and explore a new idea which is may frustrate some in its short attention span, but to me is what makes her so interesting. The EP ends with the relatively down the line bonus blues of Hide All Your Money ending mid bar, leaving it hanging in the air, making you wonder if something went wrong with the upload. There’s not, that’s just how it ends. It’s a fairly standard blues number, you can probably fill in the blanks with your imagination which Gabriella seems fully aware of. It’s the perfect end to this patchwork effort and one that will frustrate as many as it entertains.

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