, April 23rd, 2013 09:28
It doesn't matter that he's long-since moved to Manchester: I'm claiming Morris Cowan for Nottingham, the city from which we both hail, in the vague hope that if I do so, a rift in the space-time continuum will develop, eliminating the sequence of events that led to Jake Bugg, the City's current darling son.
Cornered by Bugg-hunting broadsheet critics on Sneinton's Cowan Street and asked where this or that sepia-tinged kebab shop is, or which bus stops are imbued with the most meaning, I will brandish Six Degrees like the Master Sword and Morris will teleport in. Instantly, he will transform the entire city into a dayglo Super Mario Land of possibility; the word 'FUTURE' will be lit up in coins, the critics transformed into hapless Goombas. We will stomp happily on their heads to the 8-bit jumping sound effect on '…And Sevens' and Stealth will be declared the new administrative centre for a vast empire of joy.
I quite like this record then, but you don't need to burn with a petty hatred of someone younger and more successful than yourself to enjoy it. Cowan's stated that he tried to create something close to a prog-rock album with a laptop on this, his first full-length for Wigflex, and that approach partly explains why few of the tracks here sit still for very long.
'At Sixes...', for instance, can't stop fidgeting in its seat, flanged Autistici drums and dark, unsettling synth hums that start to get brutal before the barrage of cymbal crashes relent for a breakdown that fools you into thinking you're entering a pretty straightforward blissed-out second half. Typically, it does another about-face and the percussion which has been clattering away in the background works itself back up into an exhilarating final minute frenzy. 'Serialiser', too, is a marriage of ominous atmosphere, melodic synth lead and restless, hyper-detailed beats that, along with closer 'Kirly's Dreamband' (GAME BOY REFERENCE KLAXON) most immediately brings to mind Warp stalwarts Plaid or Ghostly International's Cepia. Elsewhere, the gentle opener 'Forum' comes across like a sister to Bjork's 'Frosti', and is a jangly, night-time treat built around soft, delayed bells.
The highlight of 'Six Degrees' is undoubtedly the remarkable '...And Sevens', which, as I've said, starts off with a Mario jumping sound and just gets better from there, as martial snares and industrial scrapes await the arrival of what I am officially calling space harps. The track's extended length gives you time to let it get under your skin, and there's a hypnotic, The Field-esque quality to its gradual additions and something thrilling about the way it just drops off and plunges you into the final track without warning.
Crucially, for all that's going on and for all the moods he covers (head and heart, dancefloor and headphones), Cowan allows each element in his carefully constructed tracks the room to breathe. While it's always busy, the record rarely sounds crowded, and that's an achievement plenty of smart electronic producers struggle with. This is a slippery, satisfying work of electronic ambition that is at its happiest shedding its skin and trying something new at the first opportunity. See, the East Midlands can do progress too!