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The Green Kingdom: "Twig & Twine"

img  Tobias

If art were indeed a psychological pressure valve, Michael Cottone should probably be in a Death Metal band. „There always tends to be a lot going on in my life“, he modestly confesses, and considering his busy dayjob as a designer, his Green Kingdom production credentials and his eclectic engagement as one of the most ubiquitious members of the Sound Art scene (check the forums for evidence), that is definitely an understatement. And yet, just like its two full-length predecessors and 3inch „Jasmine“, „Twig and Twine“ again constitutes an oasis of sweetness and a conscious counterpoint to the hectic schedules, deadlines and discussions of his professional routine. It is a fantastical journey devised by someone obviously in close touch with his inner child: This album could turn grown-up men into little boys again and criminals into saints.

Perhaps, therefore, a different mechanism is at work here. In a way, Cottone is devising  music as a place of refuge, where neither cool logic nor mechanical time hold sway and where even the most cold-hearted can dream of a better world for just three quarters of an hours. Compared to the debut's tender, but slightly surreal abstractions and much-applauded follow-up Laminae's  almost claustrophobically dense textures, complex, non-linear structures and myriads of sensual micro-events, the innocence, simplicity and purity of the new material is an instant ear-catcher. Despite apparently being scored in the moody later stages of the seasonal cycle (titles like „Autumn Eyes“ and „The Promise of Spring“ at least suggest as much), the album has a summerly vibe about it, a heavenly lightness and entirely unpretentious flow. The Guitar, which had already made its entrance on „Laminae“ as quivering string-palpatations and forelorne echoes of strummed resonance, has moved into the limelight and taken on a far more traditional role. In this respect, opener „Into the Magic Night“ is a programmatic introduction: A clean Folk-riff played in slow motion is gradually adorned by sampled fragments of lyrical Cello and intensifying ambiance. When the music already appears to be over, it switches gear, turns anthemic, gains momentum and closes out the piece on a note of promise and wonder.

On quite a few of the tracks, Cottone's recognisable script has remained intact, as subtle sheets of hiss coalesce with robotic ticks and warm washes of acoustic echoes. But with most tracks clocking in around the three- and four-minute-mark, the cinematics are more private and less epic here and arrangements seem to be breathing more, despite being, as always, minutely choreographed. The playful side of the Green Kingdom is clearly more important than ever: Endearing Kalimba-Klimpereien and glistening Glockenspiel-arpeggios are naively placed slightly off or against the metrum, resulting in a sort of guided Kindergarten-orchestra. The proximity to neo-classical tendencies becomes apparent, as pieces are designed as intimate duets set in a wonderworld of harmony and ambiance. And on more extensive contributions „Maplecopter“ and „River Bends Park“, the atmospherics are even, incredibly, underpinned by a four-to-the-floor-bass-drum and clicks n cuts percussion that will make fans of Raster-Noton jump for joy – even they're pounding so slow that they only serve to deepen the soft outlines of those pieces.

What seems bewildering at first increasingly turns into a fantastical journey. Cottone has named Mary Poppins as an inspiration, which may serve as an indication of the somewhat unexpected musical genre manifesting itself here: Psychedelia. Solid forms and shapes are moving across the canvas like colourful blobs of hot wax inside a lava lamp and the album is built like a veritable „trip“ from beginning to end. More and more, the relative safety of the opening tracks is replaced by a patchwork of peace, love and harmony and, as the heartrate of the music slows down even more, the listener is gently forced to surrender to the bizarre, but quite inescapable pull of the narrative. It takes a little while to get accustomed to the rules and landmarks of this world, which at times seems as enigmatic as a deep and dark forrest. But for those willing to take the dive, the experience rewards the patience bestowed upon it.

In any case, Michael Cottone has every right to not just lull his listeners to sleep, but keep challenging them on each new album. This is his kingdom, after all.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: The Green Kingdom
Homepage: Own Records

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