“Formula” is not a word which I think should ever be applied to music production. In fact, the music I find most edifying and interesting eschews formula, if not all together, then through a willingness to open new sonic or emotional doorways with each listen. Such is the music of Pulco. Ash Cooke (for that is his name), weaves intricate and ever-changing sonic and emotional landscapes in his songs; exemplified in the five-track EP ‘Sketchbook Season’.
With me, comparisons are inevitable: there are elements of Beta Band, early Simian and the quirky near-spoken-word adult electro nursery rhymes of John Callaghan. But the music is by no means derivative. With their constantly changing instrumentation and structures, their occasionally odd neo-folk stylings, samples and 8-bit layers; these songs offer ‘interest’ in the least beard-stroking way possible. There is also a mild euphoria to these songs, a wistfulness and a breeziness which lends itself to summer listening. All tied together with Cooke’s tuneful tenor vocal. The opening track ‘Whistle Frog Finds A Way’ sets a whimsical tone with its speeded-up vocal sample and spoken-word intro which echoes those lovely introductions to many a children’s TV classic by Oliver Postgate or Eric Thompson; before it bursts into life as a slightly overdriven folk-pop song. Personal favourite ‘Don’t Stand Down’ is achingly beautiful, with mellotron-esque choir, gently plucked guitar and vocal harmonies.
While this all makes for an essentially pleasant listen, Cooke throws the occasional curve-ball; ‘formula’ is disregarded and the music shifts and ebbs, against the flow.
As I type this, I’m also listening to Pulco’s “Small Thoughts” album which offers more variety but is equally accomplished and appealing.