Album Review: Cobalt Chapel’s “Orange Synthetic”

Cobalt Chapel, Orange Synthetic, Klove Recordings, January 29, 2021
Tracks: In Company (4:27), The Sequel (3:49), Message To (3:18), A Father’s Lament (3:41), Our Angel Polygon (4:32), Cry A Spiral (4:53), It’s The End, The End (5:26), Pretty Mire, Be My Friend (4:04), E.B. (2:15), Orange Synthetic (6:21)

Yorkshire, UK, duo Cobalt Chapel recently released their second album, Orange Synthetic, and it’s a wonderful contemporary progressive take on the psychedelic music of the 1960s. It has fresh production values with lush textures and glowing vocals. So who are Cobalt Chapel? Cecilia Fage (from Matt Berry & The Maypoles) and Jarrod Gosling (from I Monster). Gosling also happens to make the album artwork for Tim Bowness‘ solo albums. 

Fage’s vocals are the clear centerpiece of the album, and her voice is absolutely stunning. It’s treated with some echoey effects that give it a choral feeling, which matches the aesthetic implied by the band’s name. The album sounds fantastic, with the vocals and music clear, clean, and distinct. The various organs and keyboards are the primary musical sounds, with their textures swirling around the listeners head as Fage sings in the center. The guitar, drums, and soft bass complete the psychedelic sound. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding album out today. It is mixed very well with everything easy to pick out. Nothing is muddled. You can even make out the clicking of keys or buttons on whatever instrument Gosling is playing at the end of “A Father’s Lament.” There’s a slight hum in the background at that point which makes you feel like you’re in the room with him as he closes out the song. The whole record is really a pleasure to listen to.

There are folk elements to the music, with the album being influenced by Yorkshire itself. The song “E.B.” sounds the most folky, with instruments kept to a relative minimum and Fage’s voice carrying the brief track. Overall though the music retains a psychedelic vibe through heavy use of keyboards and organs, along with very 60s-sounding drums and guitars. The music is much more upbeat than the type of psychedelic music I’m more familiar with, though. It isn’t as spacey, although there are times when it sounds like they’re about to launch into the spacier side of this corner of rock music. They never quite get there all the way, except for on “Cry A Spiral,” which is the spaciest track on the record. Even on that song the ending is heavier and more lush-sounding, ending with a light touch of saxophone and various organs. Melody takes a central position on the album, which is perhaps what makes this album so appealing on repeated listens. You’re left feeling refreshed after listening to Orange Synthetic

If I had to make one complaint, it’s that I would have preferred some longer extended instrumental sections. The end of the first track, “In Company,” breaks into what sounds like it’s going to be a wonderfully psychedelic Floydian soundscape, but then it breaks off suddenly. The second track similarly fades out as it enters an instrumental passage. The third track does the same thing. It drops into the beginning of a 1960s-style psychedelic mood, yet it cuts off after a few brief seconds. At about 43 minutes in length, I think there’s room on the album for some longer musical exploration. They set the listener up for it, but they leave me longing for that instrumental space to breathe.

The title track, which ends the record, is the longest on the album at over six minutes, and it has a longer instrumental passage in the middle that feels much more natural for this kind of music. When Fage’s vocals kick in again after that passage, I’m left satisfied. In that regard the song is the perfect ending for the album. I just wish more of the songs on the album more generously balanced the instrumental side of this style of music with Fage’s beautiful vocals by having more extended musical passages. 

I highly recommend Cobalt Chapel’s sophomore album, Orange Synthetic. It’s a refreshing blend of upbeat psychedelic music with stunningly beautiful vocals presented with choral overtones. The music is accessible, yet complex enough to reward on repeated listens. Cobalt Chapel have masterfully brought the psychedelic sounds of a bygone era into fresh territory for a contemporary audience. 

Buy the album on CD, vinyl, or digital download, including signed copies of physical media: https://cobaltchapel.tmstor.es/#main_menu

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