The group once described by Drowned In Sound as ‘Fugazi meets Mingus’ make an interesting racket on their latest LP. While the comparison still holds up on Plays Hard To Get, there’s a stuerm und drang to the likes of ‘You’ll Wade’ that has echoes of everyone from Mclusky to Zu to In Rainbows-era Radiohead.
LP on Abbreviated Records housed in a debossed sleeve with inserts.
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The things we’ll accuse bands of being. “Fugazi meets Mingus”. “Ought with the Mountain Goats”. “Unwound but if they made In Rainbows”. A day will come when we shut up shop on the hot takes, but it is not this day, for I’d argue all three of those quotes ring true for Robocobra Quartet. A band with the rude ‘tude and talk back of noise rock bands, the theatrics of big band jazz and the lush, cerebral arrangements of rock bands that can afford it, they pretty much do it all and we try and make up ways to put it together.
The truth of it is that Robocobra Quartet sound this full of ideas because they have a good dozen plus people contributing them: not a quartet as much as they are a budding ensemble, they make ‘Plays Hard To Get’ sound as communal as it is. This record delivers on the promise of ‘Music For All Occasions’, offering a seamless narrative journey through its endless structures, vocalist Chris Ryan delivering the kind of meandering but concrete lyrical captivations of Kieran Leonard -- he has to readjust for new horn parts, changed keys, dramatic piano chords and haughty climaxes, but he sounds like he could swim through anything. Segments of terse sparsity, such as the ramblings of “Try Hard”, eventually twist into gorgeous, spaced out saxophone solos, while Ryan also has to scream over improvised solos and formless cataclysms on “Pinballs”.
It’s a breathless record, but spacious, too, the crew learning new ways to make their busy cacophony sound serene and serialised. This is the record where the Robocobra Quartet seem to finally get themselves, amidst all the convolutions and crossovers in their sound; there are interludes and reflections amidst the punky, groovy, jazzy disquiet. 'Plays Hard To Get' is easy to love.
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