Today’s recommendation is so fine that he had us questioning what music itself actually is. Is it just a sequence of sounds? Is it just a process of rhythms? Are melodies just noises tapped out in an arranged series? Are harmonies just wavelengths that sound nice? How can a chain of vibrations become music? More poignantly with today’s artist, how can some people suggest what is and isn’t music? Without many traditional instruments in sight, except for keyboards plump with samples, here is a new male solo artist making truly enjoyable music almost solely from looping sequences. We’d love him just for his inventiveness and creativity, but make no mistake, he is packing some deadly music, real music, in his box of tricks.
Welcome to the world of Cosmo Sheldrake, an impossibly creative 22 year old solo artist originally from London but now living in Brighton. Here is a musician in the traditional sense of the word. If you consider that perhaps cavemen created the first songs in human history by banging sticks onto stones, then Cosmo is doing the modern equivalent, with samplers and computers as his contemporary tools. There’s no need for guitars, or drums, or any common normality, instead we meet someone mastering loops and sounds. Cosmo is the conductor of his own limitless ideas and this leads to some remarkable creations.
Consider what Beardyman does when he loops samples of his own beat boxing, but remove the comedy routine. Imagine what Grimes does when she layers up electronic sounds and twisted vocals into beautiful ice structures, although Cosmo has a warmth and a lightness not seen since Lemon Jelly. When he uses vocals they are delivered as either samples of others, chopped into new shapes, or sung by him in a babbling use of mostly unintelligible words. The songs are built up layer by layer, in a style so organic you scratch your head to imagine how computers and electronics can possibly achieve results like this. It’s more like he is using machines that wind up using a handle hidden at the back, as if they might run out of energy before the end, as beats constantly verge on collapse. This is the farm-produced end of the sampling spectrum if we consider Grimes is the stylish, modern independent boutique. This point is further proved when you see him literally performing to a batch of pigs in their sty in this enjoyable video.
Cosmo is the son of the renowned author and biochemist Rupert Sheldrake, which may go some way to explaining how his music feels like weird science in action. The family links continue as we learn that we was originally spotted busking with his brother, Merlin, in Dalston, by none other that Mercury Prize nominee, Sam Lee, who asked them both not only to perform with him, but to remix his song, The Ballad Of George Collins (see below). He has also been seen performing in a side project alongside Merlin in the band, Gentle Mystics. Musical connections continue when his biography reveals that he went to school with Bombay Bicycle Club and the guys from the band Theme Park, both of whom jammed alongside Cosmo during school sessions.
It’s the solo work that fires the synapses though, as tracks such as the smooth and endearing Rich, which features the pixie-like vocals of Anna Roo, sounding like Mr Scruff covering Aluna George. If Rube Goldberg made alternative pop music this is what would be produced. The song, Prefusify, delivers another set of samples that blur the lines between keyboards and vocals, both of which he can manipulate like Playdough. New tune, The Fly, continues his magic musical jewellery box theme, with another pop song that has instant appeal. His lyrics are decipherable this time, although just as strange, seeming to be sung from the point of view of a happy fly.
Here is a true multi-instrumentalist for the computer generation. He creates impossibly delightful symphonies, as if the mice in Bagpuss had reached out beyond children’s television, and it’s a refreshing sound in a music industry dominated by safe clichés. The genre of beatboxing doesn’t quite do this samplist justice, as although there are hip hop elements to this, we actually have a middle-class, countrified application of the Beatboxer’s new technology. He played jazz and classical piano from the age of 4 years old and has been known to play the banjo, the drums and even the double bass, so Cosmo is perfectly capable of using traditional instruments, it’s just that electronics allow him the freedom to explore his ideas that bit further. You can see him here on a TED talk, the globally-popular events designed to spread innovation and ideas, mostly using British birds as his sampled sounds. And this runs at the heart of why Cosmo is worth your attention. It’s the same reason why that Caveman picked up some sticks a few millenniums ago. Music is about play, it’s about improvisation, it’s about ideas and it’s about nonsense. Essentially this is what music is all about. It’s not about contemporary instruments, traditional band setups, or any ideas that have arrived in the last century, it’s about human nature and the desire to fuck about. And Cosmo Sheldrake fucks about better than most. (MB)
COSMO SHELDRAKE – THE FLY
COSMO SHELDRAKE – RICH (feat. ANNA ROO)
SAM LEE – THE BALLAD OF GEORGE COLLINS (COSMO SHELDRAKE REMIX)