Anka: Cocoon Time

Pieter Nooten: Ourspace

Judging by Cocoon Time, one-time Clan of Xymox member Anka Wolbert survived her early brush with fame without any crippling loss to her talent. After leaving the group in the early ‘90s, Wolbert's musical style developed a trip-hop ambiance which comes strongly to the forefront on her new album's 13 songs. Recorded in East London over a period of three to four years, the album begins strongly with the lush, guitar-driven trip-hop of “Inside the Bubble” and then mellows slightly for “A Storm” and the lulling “Seven Slow Hours.” Throughout the disc, Wolbert adds vocal interest by singing in a lower register, dueting with herself, and adding distortion. “Hello Dustlane” pulsates with energy and urgency but the peak moment arrives with “Angel” whose filtered vocal and raw shoegaze wail vaguely recall Curve. In fact, the aggressive cuts make such a strong impression, one wishes Wolbert had included a few more of them and less of the dreamy downtempo material (like “Temptation”) that generally dominates. Even so, Cocoon Time impresses as a splendid and oft-intoxicating collection of classic songwriting, romantic mood-sculpting, and earthy vocalizing.

Pieter Nooten was also a Clan of Xymox member who departed the band over musical differences. He subsequently accepted a position as in-house producer at Amsterdam's One4Two studio in the early ‘90s and then reunited with Anka in 1995 for Vaselyn, a band project that ended prematurely in the wake of record company re-organization. A decade later, Nooten and Wolbert remain kindred spirits (each assisted in the production of the other's album) whose releases make a natural pair despite key differences, the primary one being Ourspace's electronic-folk instrumental emphasis. Like Cocoon Time, his album flirts with trip-hop on occasion, albeit instrumentally (“Lo Down Valley”), and Nooten likewise sings but on three tracks only, including the symphonic folk-pop tune “Stop Time” and the wistful closer “Sanctuary.” Though undeniably pretty, the dreamy material occasionally veers a little too close to New Age in “Rain Down” and jazz-lite in “Surface.” Countering such lapses are pieces like “Red Glint,” a particularly lovely example of orchestral folk. “I'm back where I belong” Nooten sings on Ourspace's serene opener “So Much Easier” and the song's natural electronic-folk swoon convincingly suggests as much.

October 2006