How long it takes an artist to record an album is a classic touchstone of music criticism. Writers marvel at the ease of something recorded in a week and dissect the painstaking, chipping-away-at-marble process of an album like 'Smile' with equal fervor. Gabriella Cohen’s debut solo record, 'Full Closure and No Details', falls into the former camp - it was completed in just 10 days and produced by Cohen and Kate Dillon - but the album feels so authentic and visceral that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t the product of one single, 41-minute cathartic recording session.
“Frenzied could be one way of describing it. It was also calm as a lake, which could turn into a broody storm,” Cohen says of the recording process. “The further I am removed from that memory I can recall the smell of liberation.”
It isn’t too hard to come up with a list of artists who bear some sonic resemblance to Cohen. Courtney Barnett is an obvious comparison point; blues rock mainstays like the White Stripes are similarly low-hanging fruit, and even nouveau slacker bands like Twin Peaks or Speedy Ortiz share distinct similarities. But between her work as front woman of the Furrs and 'Full Closure...', it’s quiet evident that Cohen has found a completely unique space for herself, writing pensive, engrossing, occasionally lovelorn songs that come in on a hot breeze and hang in the air.
Cohen describes her own musical background as diverse; she lists a vast swath of artists whose influence can be felt on 'Full Closure...' even with the record’s sonic cohesion and the fat-free production that gives Cohen’s guitar work and singing plenty of room but also a huge amount of responsibility to carry nearly every track save for the vaporous and aptly-titled ballad 'Piano Song'.
“It was a colourful background of Brazilian bossa nova, heaps of 'Graceland', Roger Waters, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen,” she says of her musical roots. “Lots of driving trips in the car with my Father and listening to Muddy Water tapes and I can recall one trip we listened to about five Bob Marley tapes in a row.”
'Full Closure...' hits some of the essential notes of a breakup album on tracks like 'I Don’t Feel So Alive' and 'Downtown', but Cohen is far more concerned with rumination than either revenge or reconciliation.
“I believe people deflect for a very long time deep within their sub-consciousness. Deflection in affairs of the mind can be good or bad,” she explains. “And after you deflect you can begin the ceremony of reflection. As you grow older you can learn to deflect less and relish in reflecting at rapid pace.”
The record itself has received plenty of praise, and Cohen has already toured across the globe promoting it, but when asked what the most surreal moment of this past year has been, Cohen’s answer is surprising, yet it confirms the perceptiveness and thoughtful nature that makes her such a stellar songwriter.
“Visiting Leonard Cohen’s house in Montreal, where he grew up. In the wee hours of the morning a group of us were making our way to a diner I was going to go alone but it felt natural and right,” she explains. “A modest selection of people’s offerings: candles, paintings, letters, a bagel, fine whisky. A tape player was playing ‘Chelsea Hotel’ by the house, a solemn sight.”
Her description of the scene is something that the late Cohen could have turned into a mesmerizing record, and given her impressive gifts as a writer and musician, it seems a safe bet that Gabriella Cohen could potentially create something just as stirring.
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Words: Grant Rindner
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