Alison Cotton – All is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

Discarding the pretty side of things, this half of The Left Outsides goes full-on experimental with her debut solo release. All of the elements which could be employed to make what we’ve heard out of her are there but they’ve been re-purposed. There is one track on here which parses it’s ingredients out and then proceeds to manipulate their placement in the sound field to devastating effect; I’m continually reminded of a lamb shank cooked to perfection with the meat literally falling off the bone as I listen to what she has achieved on this record.

There’s no filler, either, we’re removed from our comfort zone and taken out into the wilds; into fields which have subsumed the settlement built to exert control, broken machinery rusts just below the tree line while the verdant odor of decay rears up to take back what has always been it’s domain. Alison Cotton deserves recognition for her imaginative use of recording techniques over the span of these five pieces, she leaves nothing to chance, taking full advantage of technology to breathe life into what initially comes across the bandwidth as a barren, acrid realm.

This is not to say that her voice doesn’t feature prominently but unlike where she usually operates from she’s not holding anything back. Merging with wave after wave of ingeniously fashioned synthesis, Alison’s words (?) float above, beneath and within; it’s no small feat to hold so many disparate tones together and yet somehow what she sings manages to do so. Moreover, her impetus for creating ‘All is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre’ remains inscrutable; there’s no explanation forthcoming, I keep playing this through trying to find one or even a hint of one to no avail.

Is this a place of wonder, of hope, of redemption or is it as I’ve described: an outpost buried in the heart of humanity’s hell-bent need to discard what it no longer has a use for. Where does relevancy end and resiliancy begin; this record is a monument to things implacable, a meditation on sumptuous emptiness which has no end.

Alison Cotton – All is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre
Bloxham Tapes, BT07
MC/Digital 2018

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