In notes on his Bandcamp page, Cousin Silas says that he semi-jokingly referred to Through A Cobweb Strange as “the disco album.” I have referred to it on my Facebook page as “Wow.” We could also call it space funk or cosmic dub … it’s a lot of things, and will be different things to different listeners, but it will be, universally speaking, unspeakably cool. This is 15 tracks and 90 minutes of bliss, and any time I put it on I want to find a place that’s an hour and a half away and drive there listening to this. Variety is the spice of this album, and Cousin Silas (aka David Hughes) beautifully handles every shift, no matter how slight. You’ll go from revved-up to slowed-down without a bump between. On one end of the kinetic scale, you have tracks like “The Other Jezebel,” which wallops into the listener with an unrepentant fist of distorted guitar. Strong bass—of which there is much on this album—lays down a line packed with smooth attitude. Hughes lays in vocal drops of some sort of evangelical preacher (“Hold up your bibles.” “Say it like you mean it.”) to bolster ripping wails that conjure thoughts of Adrian Belew. I love the line that lands at the very end: “I may feel unqualified, but I’m gonna act like I’m willing.” You’ll get hit hard again on “A Day of No Return.” It captivates from the first crisp snap of the drum and the purposeful stroll of another rock-hard bass line. The guitar here is like a barely controlled beast, yelping and snarling. The rhythm section pays it no mind; just keeps on keepin’ on. When it takes a break, the underlying structure is just a cool groove placed on top of pads and you’re given time to dig on that. If you can avoid uttering “aw, yeah” at the start of “Funky Snatcher,” you’re doing better than I. It’s clear to me that this piece fell to earth out of a long-lost ’70s low-budget detective movie that I need to see immediately. It’s just all wah-wah and bass and gangster lean stride with yet another shades-of-IDM vocal drop. On the slower side of things, take in the shimmering jazz guitar and muted trumpet sounds of “Sunday Morning 5 AM.” Dreamy and thoughtful, it pulls on the emotive sound of a hollow-body guitar. Clearly, the last of last night’s whisky is close at hand, and maybe a photo of someone we’re better off forgetting. “Oceans” is a coasting-speed thing as well, all pads and smooth guitar lines over a simple 1/1-2 drum thump that’s as sure as tides. The guitar here absolutely glistens. This might have been my favorite track on the album if it didn’t happen to precede “Guitar 28—Raining Again.” It’s clear to me that Hughes tapped into my head and found someone or something or some point in time that means a lot to me and encoded it into song. Because from the very start, from the first soft chord, the first ping of a guitar note, from the first quiet tap of percussion, this track owns me outright. I can’t describe it beyond saying it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in years, and something in here just nudges me to the verge of tears each and every time I listen to it. It’s like nine minutes of soul searching shaken, not stirred, into a snifter of potent memory. (And, tricky bastard, this is the piece he dumps out into “Funky Shaker” so you don’t have more time to dwell.) Oh, there’s so very much going on here. The hazy drift of the title track, slinking smoothly along on a laid-back beat that Hughes supports with long pads, then drips rivulets of guitar notes from between his fingers to coat it, then glazes everything with an angelic vocal sample that lilts and coos in a come-hither way. And there’s the mid-tempo stuff, like “Down the Waterfront.” It’s got a catchy beat and is loaded with delicious bass. Out of nowhere, some trumpet drops in to jazz up the place, ranging from sexy phrases to sudden wails that ripple the air—both packed heavy with echo. It’s a laid-back thing, but with lethal doses of cool.
Holy shit, I love this album. Like, to an inordinate, might-require-an-intervention degree. And I’m suggesting you take a big, lung-filling hit off this thing, too. For people whose exposure to Cousin Silas has been limited to his amazing back catalog of quiet ambient, this will come as a real surprise. I might have been surprised as well had I not had a chance to dig into his Time Spinners release with Jack Hertz, which gave me my first intro to the funky side of Cuz. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an insanely talented musician. Insanely. And this album is a border-jumping, genre-ignoring bit of absolute wonder and you need to own it right now.
Available from We Are All Ghosts.