Alex Cobb: Chantepleure
Students of Decay

Alex Cobb came to regard Chantepleure, a thirty-five-minute collection of guitar-based ambient-drone compositions he recorded at home late last summer, as such a personal recording that he decided to release the material on his own Students of Decay imprint rather than somewhere else. Though it does live up to its press release billing as his “most optimistic and sanguine musical statement to date,” the album in fact emerged out of a period of intense emotional upheaval involving heartache and isolation. Even so, there's an elegance and poise on display that's consistent with the suggestion of refinement engendered by the album title.

Perfectly tailored to a twelve-inch vinyl presentation, the album features three pieces on its first side and a single setting on the second. The project's tone is clearly established when the delicate tones of “Prayer Ring” and “Anselin” fill the air. Cobb's atmospheric music floats languorously, its character serene and tinted with an undercurrent of supplication, and breathes softly, its edges smoothened to a glossy, shimmering sheen. Even more serene is “Disporting with a Shadow,” which manages to evoke a celestial paradise in no more than three-and-a-half minutes. Its crystalline quality carries over into the side-long “Path of Appearance,” where ambient guitar textures, hovering in mid-air, subtly swell in size over the course of its sixteen-minute run.

As one would expect, Cobb didn't select the album title randomly: one dictionary source for ‘chantelpleure' defines it as “to sing and cry at the same time.” The background details for the project suggest that the emotions Cobb experienced during the album's creation ran the gamut from elation to despair, and certainly hints of such states come through in the recording's four instrumentals.

June 2015