Monday, June 25, 2012

PULCO The Man Of Lists

This is the eighth Pulco album, following on from June 2011's "
Small Thoughts" (the station where I first boarded the Pulco train). Ash Cooke aka Pulco is not just prolific, he appears to be making music constantly. The twelve month interval between these two albums has seen a free EP ("Sketchbook Season"), a collaboration with Adam Leonard (the Redlip album) and numerous Soundcloud 'field recordings' (example: ‘Pool Poem’ recorded in his car whilst waiting outside the local swimming baths).

It doesn't sound as though this lo-fi Bedroom Bard of Bangor needs any stimulus or extra inspiration to make music but for “The Man Of Lists” he has opted to record each song as a collaboration. So nine musicians or bands provide the musical setting for his spoken-word reveries and reflections on these twenty-five tracks. These range from Anglo-Dutch remixers Snippet to Scottish Gameboy wrangler Unexpected Bowtie, from the North Walian alt-folk of Gwildor to the neo-Canterbury bungalow-pop of Picturebox. It sounds like a dizzyingly diverse eclectic bunch but the music they create together sounds no more varied than a regular Pulco record: samples of the mice from Bagpuss, post-modern story-telling, kid’s voices and chiptune do not constitute surprises or variety in the kaleidoscopic world of Pulco.

These short, melodic songs, part sound collage, part monologue, have so much going on within and across them it is difficult to summarise – indeed ‘Archive’ considers Pulco as a lever-arch file, “
filling up with unrelated scraps of paper...shoved under the stairs and left alone with the fluff”. But “The Man Of Lists” is always engaging – a gently unfolding voyage, sometimes poetic and lyrical (the nocturnal reverie of ‘Owl-Abuse’), sometimes comic (the hymn to failure and “a tail-spin into the mediocre” of ‘Opportunities With Music’) or just plain toe-tapping fun (the paean to country life ‘Bugger The Chickens!’ or the country lope of ‘Chips In The Rain’).

In ‘Datanet’ Pulco is the man “
who dreamed of the stars, pissed outside Clwb Ifor Bach”. In ‘The Downside of Things’ the repeated, defiant cry of “I am a artist, musician and poet” is turned into a stirring two-minute electro-rock anthem by Picturebox only to end with the crushingly abrupt and stark realisation “but ultimately this will be my undoing”. There are many such tragicomic moments. ‘Cover Version For The Album’ considers a self-portrait mimicking the pastoral artwork of Vashti Bunyan’s “Diamond Day” taken outside the pig shed door but with a photoshopped gut: “fat bastard...what would Vashti say?

One final line from an eminently quotable album: “
I hope they preserve my box of bits and bobs when I’m gone” (‘Poem Over Hovering Ambience’). Don’t leave it until the demise of Mr Ash Cooke to work your way through his lists and collaborations and boony capers. Recommended for “explorers of mutant sounds”. Onward tourists!

The Man Of Lists [BUY]

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