In the quest for the new sound, the path is one paved with ambitious intentions and fraught with admirable failed experiments and laughable attempts at the avant garde. Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music is a terrible album that forces the listener to reconsider what they might constitute as real music, while Lulu is an album where James Hetfield feels it appropriate to yell “I am the table”, while Lou Reed’s withered husk struggles to sing some Burrowsian tripe. Both of these releases are burying their fingers in the earth, digging for something and coming up with dirty fingers. There are numerous other examples of these clodded experiments which litter the annals of history, but every once in a while someone strikes gold. On the first track of of Robocobra Quartet’s debut EP, ‘98-’01’, there is a point where everything falls into place. The track, which so far has been stripped back to its essential components of drums, bass, vocals and a synth, reveals itself fully and lets the two other members of the quartet fill out the mix. The horns drop, the stage lights are a pure brilliant white and waiting for us is a sliver of gold. It’s only a nugget, but it’s something spectacular. While, over the next three tracks, the release doesn’t have that same luminescent glow as it does in those first few minutes, they are still an excellent trio of tracks.
Robocobra Quartet are a Belfast based four piece comprised of a bassist, a singing drummer and a loud as hell horn section. Their music is a strange hodgepodge of various styles, which owes as much to hardcore punk as it does to experimental jazz. There are shades of Fugazi sitting comfortably alongside the likes of John Coltrane. Centrally though, the band has taken inspiration from these sources but isn’t trying to ape them. There are little bits and pieces taken from these artists that can he heard throughout. The vocals owe a clear debt to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, the lyrics have this strange, almost Ginsberg, twinge to them, the basslines have this distinct post-punk sheen as they carry a great deal of the melody and the more manic elements wouldn’t be out of place on John Zorn’s Naked City or Mr. Bungle’s debut. But while you can pick all of these individual elements out, the whole still feels wholly unique. It’s a strangely ominous and hypnotic sound too. On the tracks ”80-’88’ and ‘Flickering Blinds’, the woodwind instruments are used to great effect as they add this subtly unsettling tone, as though there is a deep, insidious evil hiding beneath the mix waiting to be released to lay waste to the land. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to be on a constant rotation in Twin Peaks’ Red Room.
What lets the release down, though, is a lack of variety. The group seem to be playing it a bit safe and only showing some of their hand. While the record is only 4 tracks, there is a part of you that wishes that they offered something a little bit more experimental or weird. On first impression, this seems to be a well from which a lot can be drawn, it’d be a shame to see the group reiterate themselves on subsequent releases. Still it’s better to leave the audience wanting more, than to leave them overstuffed and that is exactly what Robocobra Quartet do on this release. They give a clear mission statement as to who they are and what they’re trying to do. At times transcendent, at others just very good, the Bomber EP is waiting to be discovered. Will Murphy