In the rich tradition of Welsh weirdness (start with Datblygu and the Super Furry Animals and keep heading West via Cate Le Bon and H Hawkline), Ash Cooke creates “collage pop”, cutting and pasting all sorts of ideas together, from pop to far-flung experimentalism, and mixing in found sounds. Ash has pop history in his favour, as the former singer and guitarist in the turn-of-the century Derrero, but he adds heavy layering and twisted concepts, just like the artwork which features on his Bandcamp page. ‘The Universal Solder’ (nice pun!) is a good example: to the backing of a niggly guitar riff and flushing toilet, Ash recites what sounds like a manual for soldering metals in a progressively hysterical voice. ‘Which One’s Woody’ sounds like a stoned conversation, as he recites daytime TV titles. ‘Just Add Water’ is strange and compelling, seemingly a scientific treatise in which the words make sense and the music doesn’t! The vocal to ‘Spinning Tops’ appears to be a looped “uh” or, possibly, a modest belch.
But that’s the avant side; ‘Running Up A Descending Escalator’ and, especially, ‘Sadowitz’ have the hard-pop sound of the Fall, a full-tilt rhythm matched with stream-of-consciousness declamatory vocals: “hey American card magician!” ‘I Like My Own Seat on the Train’ has a Cate Le Bon-like indie quirkiness while ‘Unleash The Hounds’ takes verses constructed from sweet pop moments and slices them up with choruses full of jagged guitar and found sound. Best of all, ‘Towards A Total Art’ sounds like something from the Elephant 6 collective, poppy, catchy yet strange.
There are 18 tracks on Farmyard & Library, 43 minutes in all, and no idea is used more than once. It’s a crazy collation of thoughts and sounds, with a liberal dose of what sounds like chance recordings, possessed by a crazy momentum and an eldritch spirit. It’s weird and yet makes perfect sense: a pop epiphany.
(Farmyard And Library is released on CD by Recordiau Prin but cassette and lathe-cut vinyl is also available from Bristol label Liquid Library.)