OK, here’s the leveller. I haven’t followed Cosmograf for a while now, as one of those perceived “it’s getting samey situations”. And as I say, that was a perception. Sometimes it is good to take a break at times, to get a fresh perspective. More later.
For any who don’t know, Cosmograf is the solo project of Robin Armstrong. He’s been making albums under this name since around 2009, and none have been in any way deficient or anything less than quality listening. This time round Robin is on vocals, guitars, keyboards and bass with Chrissy Mostyn (The Black Heart Orchestra) guesting on vocals, Kyle Fenton on drums and some backing vocals, and Tommy McNally spoken word on one track.
One thing with Cosmograf is their deep theme or concept, all addressed with lyrical insight. The “Rattrapante” theme is time (the album cover gives it away) and how humans interact with time in a whole range of different ways. A challenging message delivered well. And the use of the word “Rattrapante” adds cleverness to the theme.
But let’s take a look at the album. “In 1985” begins in such an appealing Floydian fashion, and seems to explore the idea of the pursuit of fame by someone reflecting on former glories. I do like the way the song builds in elements of that era, definite “Europe” countdown drive sections, nice retrospective touches of theatre, and some excellent touches of keyboard flourish and guitar excellence. Rock solid, and unbelievably 12 minutes of quality pass by.
The title track follows, nearly ten minutes this time, with an excellent opening that moves quickly into a Purple-esque Hammond-led chunky gallop. First thing to say is I’ve not heard Robin do anything like this previously, so hats off! A curiously low level guitar solo and sweeping Mellotron waves wash over us before the next gallop ensues. A spacey spoken interlude allows a more spacious and harmonic section with more excellent guitar before the familiar Hammond signals a closing gallop. Vocal harmonies are so, so familiar to me, and yet their similarity evades me.
“I Stick to You” is the shortest song at just under 7 minutes, and I understand was released as a single, although probably never going to get the profile of Adele or the latest Korean sensation. Acoustic guitar and featuring Chrissy Mostyn on joint vocal duties, her treated multi-track vocals give a haunted, eerie feel. This track does have a little bit of Floyd sound again (Animals acoustic sections) and Robin’s voice comes across quite Harper-esque as it happens (a bit of both). The instrumental break is nicely textured and layered. I was going to say that all was missing was a blistering Gilmour solo to finish, but actually the cyclical nature and theme of immortality are treated well with the closing Mostyn section.
“Memories Lie”. How true. When practically visiting old haunts or speaking to old friends, how our perceptions and recollections vary. Over the eight minutes, Robin is able to create some hauntingly vivid soundscapes, yet gives a lengthy and lyrical exposition of the disquieting theme. A classically structured track, flowing chord patterns, ebbing reflective quiet, coursing guitar solo peaks make this possibly my favourite. Nice touch at the end to bring it back, it is such an attractive groove, clever lyrical close and musical flourish.
“Time Will Flow” is rather a surprise. 12 minutes long, yet Robin doesn’t sing on it until it is more than halfway through. Why? Instrumental? Nope! Tommy McNally, his rich accent to the fore, philosophises to us. It actually works well over the developing instrumental activity beneath, so much so that you’re over seven minutes in before you realise there were no vocal melodies. And so begins the closing section, Robin’s voice more forceful than before, a great and growing rhythmic drive, pulsing synths, haunting key tunes and subtle acoustic guitar underneath. And such a sudden, reflective, retro close.
So, let me say I rather enjoyed this album. It helped me reflect on previous perceptions, all ways on. Memories do lie.
A chronograph that has a rattrapante or split-second hand complication has a second hand for seconds that is located underneath the actual stop second hand. Until it is released, it stays under the second hand, unnoticed. When the first pusher is pressed, it stops and marks a split time. When the corresponding pusher is pressed again, it immediately catches up with the central chronograph hand. This process is described in French with the verb “rattraper”, which means “to catch up” or “to recover” in English. In the past, it was also called the “fly-back second”.
I may not have been on the same musical journey as Robin Armstrong for a while.
I’ve caught up.
- In 1985
- I Stick to You
- Memories Lie
- Time Will Flow
Robin Armstrong – vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass
Chrissy Mostyn – vocals (I stick to you)
Kyle Fenton – drums, percussion