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Coughy: Psychedelic Salad from the Carpathian Garden

Published October, 2012
by Easterndaze

A sample from ”Cânta un matelot la prora”, an old hit by the Romanian songstress Doina Badea, emits from the speakers. A noise sequence travels through the air to catch up with a flourishing of melancholic synths. A haunted and incomprehensible voice, passed through guitar effects, sticks in your ear. It’s a soundscape you can lose yourself in. This music breathes unique air into Romania’s underground scene of today.

Coughy, the band, started out in 2009 with a performance in an obscure apartment surrounded by friends. “We decided to try this concept of spontaneous jam. At first, we called a bass player to fill in the gaps, but then we decided to remain a duo,” Vlad Stoica, one of the two members of Coughy, says. Their initial goal was to see what comes out of these impromptu sessions. And it still works after three years. “We see each other only for concerts and more recently when we enter the studio,” Vlad pointed out. In fact, spontaneity is one of the strengths of Coughy’s music. Shere Marinescu, head of Local Records, the Romanian label which released Coughy’s first album last month, testifies: “What I particularly like about Coughy – of course, besides the fact they sound totally new in our little world – is the improvisational part. They are still experimental – not necessarily sound-wise (perhaps they sounded more experimental initially), but as a process. I don’t know where they’re heading to when they start to play. And if they get to an area that sounds familiar, I like to think it’s just a happy coincidence”.

COUGHY – Fruit from color nurse on Vimeo.

The self-titled first album of Coughy is a happy coincidence, too. One that marries the accessibility and fragility of (indie)pop music with the narcotic effect given by the collisions between analogue and digital, noises and harmonies, by the perpetual game of sonic layering. How did they get here? Ovidiu Bejan, the other member of the band, is the man in charge of the “technical side”: “I’m in charge of what happens technically after a recorded session. But we make the decisions together. We edit the material by dividing it into «songs»”. It’s a technique that was borrowed from the krautrock masters Can, Ovidiu admits. They recorded hours for a song that was reduced to about 20 minutes afterwards. “I can say that we are proud of this unpretentious workflow that doesn’t involve much post-processing,” Ovidiu continues.

The arsenal of musical devices is as simple as their studio method: two controllers connected to a laptop, a guitar and a voice treated with guitar effects. Seen as a whole, Coughy’s album is well hidden behind filters that allow the listener from time to time to  dig beneath the thin layers of meaning that these two musicians are building in their interminable laptop & guitar chess game, recalling sometimes the soundmark of Animal Collective/Panda Bear or Eric Copeland and making it one of the most interesting psychedelic albums ever made by a Romanian band. And maybe that’s why they have recently signed with Apollo Records – an offshoot of the legendary R&S Records – the Belgian imprint that has had some prestigious contributors over the years, like Aphex Twin, Biosphere or The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann.

by Paul Breazu