REVIEW: Spacebound Apes by The Neil Cowley Trio

There’s a moment in Toy Story 2 in which Jessie reminisces about her former life as a cherished childhood toy before she is so cruelly forsaken by her callous owner in a box next to an abandoned moving truck.

It is a poignant, and frankly weird moment (why is the truck abandoned?) But the mood is delicate.

The atmosphere and score in the scene are gilt-edged, melancholic, and could’ve featured seamlessly on the Neil Cowley Trio’s latest album, ‘Spacebound Apes’.

The album, the Trio’s sixth release, is a playground haven for daydreamers – a menagerie of slow-paced ethereal numbers punctuated by somewhat jazzier, more shrapnel-spiced songs that ruffle up the album’s pleasantly plodding status quo.

The pace is managed carefully, peaking and troughing, and carries you through the album effortlessly.

Easy listening with a razor edge is how I’d describe the record. Images of fading strobe lighting are conjoured before some of the more adrenal staccato tracks kick some life into the LSD-fuelled lazy river that is the rest of the album.

And it’s all the more wonderful for the fluctuating pace, as Cowley’s self-proclaimed themes of ‘guilt, loss, and longing’ are apparent throughout.

While some of the songs – including Hubris Major, Governance, and The Echo Nebula – sound faintly and clumsily like the could’ve been produced on GarageBand, other pieces happily let the piano go walkabout.

And when the drums are let loose a bit more too, the music feels like it’s smiling at you with J.K Simmonds’ menacing grin from Whiplash.

Nineties video games are echoed in other tracks, as the pace grows languid, hitting the classical piano harder at times before retreating to give the bass centre stage as it takes on a very ‘dark-jazz-club’ sans the jazz type of motif later in the album.

Exhaling in the last three tracks, the album closes with a definitive coda-feel to it, as the sounds become oceanic, and a sunset feel takes hold.

Apart from an uncomfortable zenith of confusedly wild piano in Sharks of Competition, which feels distinctively incongruous, the album is an excellent experience, perfect for daydreaming/reading/napping (delete as appropriate) to, which is a rare thing to find at such a musically defined and developed level.

The complete lack of vocals is not a drawback; the music takes over and rocks your heartbeat to Lance Armstrong levels of calm. It is a deeply soothing experience.

The album will be available now, while a cryptic story to which the album can act as soundtrack can be found at http://lincolnsdiary.tumblr.com/

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