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Genghis Cohn
Iron Day Zara Hedderman , December 5th, 2023 09:18

The year's second release from Genghis Cohn, finds the bard of North London settling into a Victorian coaching house with a flagon of ale to regale us all with tales of murderous maids and hedgehogs

On ‘Heapsong’, the opening track of Genghis Cohn’s first album release of 2023, Heap, we’re immediately immersed in its sonic scenery. Footsteps crunch, wildlife buzzes and a horse bellows as its passenger – we presume – takes a moment to strum a guitar before either surveying their surroundings or preparing to progress on their journey. It radiates a coldness in the air and you can never be sure what will emerge as you make your way through the LP. At times, there are vibrant, almost Animal Collective-like, electronically focused instrumentals and in other moments we encounter unsettling sound collages stitched together. It’s a fascinating listen and works tremendously well as a prologue to Cohn’s latest excellent body of work, Iron Day.

Arriving a mere eight months later, where Heap conveyed Cohn in an exploratory mood, shifting through darkened woodland; Iron Day is a far more intimate and stationary offering. Given the stripped back nature of the arrangements and minimal production, you can picture these songs being performed from an equally untreated and sparse room (maybe even an inn with a blazing fire) from the 1800s. Stories of hedgehogs, a murderous maid, and the relatable annoyance of the lingering smell of onions (“Why won’t it leave me? I washed myself head to feet twice in one evening”) captivate Cohn’s audience for its succinct 33-minute duration.

Often heralding a similar prog-inflected strand of English folk instrumentation as Richard Dawson on ‘Broken Vessel’ and ‘Benben’ in how Cohn punctuates the constant riveting and elegant guitar riffs with crude thrashes of his trusty wooden companion. These moments make the work immensely spirited in tone and tempo, and therefore a lot of fun to return to. The sheer talent in Cohn’s musicianship is also extremely irresistible as it feels like he’s performing some otherworldly magic with his acoustic.

The sparseness of the instrumental palette throughout Iron Day never makes the songs feel as though they’re in any way lacking in dexterity or personality. The work flourishes from Cohn’s care and consideration to construct extremely timeless arrangements with his endlessly impressive fingerpicking and captivating and often humorous lyrics. In the moments where we get an illuminating violin part, such as the wistful ‘Love Gulch Temple’ on which he promises to “build a temple of my bones and my eyes and my blood,” and give it to a loved one. It’s one of the sweeter moments on the album, one that heralds the songcraft of Vashti Bunyan. This is contrasted immediately with the much darker and morose ‘Misunderstood’, where Cohn’s guitar ripples with similar intensity of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ from his 1971 LP, Songs of Love And Hate. “Lord, oh Lord,” he pleads, “please don’t let me be misunderstood anymore.”

Drawing comparisons to Cohen and Bunyan, as well as contemporary musical wizards such as Dawson, whilst also cultivating his own style through his intricate (and varied) instrumentation and engaging personality is no small feat. On Iron Day. Genghis Cohn has undoubtedly produced a timeless body of work that will excite audiences for a very long time.