Reaching back into my memory banks, the details are fuzzy as to the first Taiga Remains music that I experienced, and I’m lost as to the first Students of Decay artifact that I acquired. But it’s safe to say that Alex Cobb’s music and curation have carved out a great deal of my attention and appreciation over the past ten-plus years. It was probably around the time that I started writing for Foxy Digitalis (RIP) that Cobb’s dronescapes first penetrated my cerebral cortex, the thick tendrils of tone wrapping themselves around my fragile consciousness. Over time Cobb’s sound has evolved and the Students of Decay catalog has evolved with it. The format of the releases has matured: from CD-Rs through to cassettes and LPs; the curation has also become more varied stylistically, with artists as diverse as Caroline No, Anne Guthrie, Kyle Bobby Dunn, and Ekin Fil being represented. Cobb’s sensibilities are finely-tuned toward music that is both intriguing and engaging.
Hui Terra marks a few new beginnings for Cobb. It’s his debut LP as Etelin, a project that sees his focus veer away from straight drone work. It’s the first release on his new Soda Gong label, which aims to transcend genre and explore a sense of playfulness and naiveté in modern experimental music. It was also recorded in the months after Cobb became a new father, in fits and starts as opportunities presented themselves – often at all hours. Crafted using a pared down setup of digital synths and a sampler, the album sits squarely at the crossroads of musique concrète and effervescent ambience.
“Vixen and Kits” presents Cobb’s new modus operandi in its nearly eight minutes of drawn out bell tones, spatters of ringing chimes, and thunderous rain drop roaring. The series of sonic vignettes plays like a slide show of percussive elements that veers from the delicate to the outright vigorous. “Hour Here Hour There” is named after the intermittent snatches of time in which Cobb could record – in between tending to a new infant’s needs – and picks up where its predecessor left off, adding digital filigree and a healthy coating of ambient sound dust. The processed coos of a newborn baby morph into alien synth tones on “Little Rig” before a melodic pattern appears and gracefully concludes the piece. Closing track “Been Really Good Today” features subtly warped bells played over a muffled sample of what could be the goings on in Cobb’s domicile in a subtle, perhaps unintentional, nod to folks such as Graham Lambkin or Luc Ferrari.
Hui Terra is not to be missed, both for long-tenured fans of Cobb’s work and for those who appreciate early electronic music and/or modern electroacoustic composition. Dive headfirst into its dreamlike, cascading narratives by pointing your browser to the Soda Gong Bandcamp. For a physical manifestation of Cobb’s transcendent imagery, visit Forced Exposure.