he leaves have turned, chill winds are snaking up our sweaters, and music lovers everywhere are retreating from dying days into the comforts of fall and winter music. Cozy coos licking the ears like flames near hearthside feet. Narcoleptic melodies and lullaby beats. Skeletal industrial rhythms and banshee howls.
The third addition may stand out, but Jane’s Coconuts—despite its summertime imagery—fits autumn like spiced cider. Cold and hypnotic, Coconuts evokes crisp, dramatic sunsets, sleet-dagger nights, and yearning, lonely people frosting windowpanes with chilly breath.
The duo of Scott Mou and Noah Lennox (of some wildlife-themed band or another) first released Coconuts in 2002 as a limited CDR at Other Music. As such, only the white-hot core of the in-the-know heard it, but luckily New York’s Psych-o-Path has deigned to release it to us laggards on the heels of the modest success of Berserker, put out earlier this year on Paw Tracks.
Those approaching Jane as an alternate Animal Collective will be sorely disappointed by Jane’s extended jams and gray textures. On Coconuts, Lennox’s liturgical chants and the somber circularity of Mou’s turntable displace AC’s rambunctious joy. The result is an album of dark shades and surprising weight, psychedelic not like a petal-laced sunburst but like a pitch-black night in a small room with walls that seem to expand and contract with your heaving chest.
The opener and title track follows a stuttering locomotive beat through billowing ambient textures, brittle keyboard tinkles, and wordless moaning familiar to those who’ve heard Lennox on Young Prayer. Despite its 21 minutes, the track is relentless, strapped to a beat tinged with Can, Thobbing Gristle, and the dance music much-touted as the musical inspiration behind Mou and Lennox’s first sessions. “Coconuts” is a piece of space and confinement. Again, we see the person at the window. The doors are locked , the floorboards bare, and the space beyond the pane a vast terrain of wind-whipped desolation.
The second of two tracks, “Ossie” is more adventurous than the first, even briefly escaping Mou’s driving rhythms. It opens with abrasive electronics—mixing board screeches and processed vocal squalls—that outwear their welcome. But before the track slips into full-on noise-art pretension, a bass pulse restores some regularity and the static hisses begin to fit a meter. And then Lennox arrives, sounding more Gregorian than ever. The echoes on his voice outline invisible cathedrals and push “Ossie” into ritual and incense. As if to corrupt the sanctity, Mou brings an honest-to-God 4/4 beat to final minutes of the tracks, albeit a 4/4 muted and stripped of all hedonism.
If Jane is an ambient project, Mou and Lennox certainly don’t listen to the ambient music I do. Coconuts grabs the attention and rewards close listening. Like much spontaneous, one-take music, it falls victims to self-indulgence now and again, but its cold atmospheres and dim-lit tones warrant a reissue.
Reviewed by: Bryan Berge
Reviewed on: 2005-11-21