The Eiffel Tower, baguettes, Scorsese’s adventure/fantasy flick Hugo. All things that come to mind when Paris pulls into the brain-station. Now the Parisian rock scene has given us Cosse to help flesh out those associations. On their debut album, It Turns Pale, there’s Nils Bö (vocals and guitar), Lola Frinchet (vocals and bass), Felipe Sierra (guitar), and Tim Garson (drums, vocals, and saxophone). Across ten songs, they dish out a Monet of post-rock, noise-rock, and alternative rock that soothes the darkened soul and simultaneously riles it back up.
Despondent guitar lingers around like a growing lump in the throat as the opening track, “Crazy Horse”, prepares to take off. The influence of Spiderland is immediately appreciated. Then there’s a slight sense of relief as the intro swells into the hypnotic 6/8 groove. There’s a natural calmness to its steady motion. Bö sings, ‘When I ride my crazy horse/As if we were falling forever‘ with a certain Thom Yorke-like quality, just as the song diminuendos before the chorus. The raw emotion on display here is just beautiful, which makes the fuzz-fueled and feedback-laden climax of the song all the more powerful.
The specter conjured off that heavy outro haunts forth into “Tangerine”, the album’s most hostile and noisy outburst. The guitars take malevolent pleasure in their dissonance, the groove is unhinged, and Frinchet’s ethereal backing vocals contrast perfectly with Bö’s wailing. It’s reminiscent of fellow Sonic Youth disciples, Brooklyn-based Grooms, particularly their song “Acid King of Hell (Guitar Feelings)“. There’s also a bit of early Nirvana in the way Bö screams a cappella, ‘There is no way out‘ at the end of the track.
Like someone once said, ‘The only way out is through’. “Evening” is like a journey through the eye of a storm. Its noisy guitar intro and infectious opening groove dissolve into a creepy post-rock build up and drop into a hellscape of sludge (picking up some O’Brother vibes here). Putting the dynamics on blast, the bridge section is in direct contrast. Bö sings, ‘I didn’t make you heavenly or earthly/Mortal or immortal‘ in such a way that one could mistake them for Black Midi. From the aftermath of the storm, the outro reaches a pinnacle of post-rock beauty that can only be attained from suffering first.
The opening of the album is pretty flawless, but somehow the midsection just ripens and gets better with each listen through too! The acoustic guitar ballad “Easy Things” might seem unappetizing on paper, but the angular guitar melodies and alluring vibe of the chorus make it totally enchanting. “Braindow” follows it up nicely with some sleek grooves, Radiohead chord sensibilities, and Frinchet’s most moving vocal performance as she sings, ‘I’ll let you see through me/No doubt/No shame/No sin‘. Next, “Mind Facilities” offers post-punk energy with a side of shoegaze, more straightforward song structure, and a sick bass riff that rivals that of Young Windows.
The midsection of the album finishes with the title track, “It Turns Pale”. The group weaves a gentle, warm, post-rock-kissed blanket of sound over its six-minute runtime. The song’s chill demeanor in the beginning is almost deceptive, like it’s putting up a wall to protect itself. But there’s a crack in the wall, an awful pain that won’t be suppressed. It wells up as the wall of the last chorus breaks down. The soul stirs while Bö and Finchet sing in rounds, ‘I belong to who told me/You won’t be free if you’re not scared‘. This mantra brings the song to a final state of catharsis.
“Clouds Are Not Really Moving” is a short interlude of soft and foreboding guitar music. The arpeggiated diminished chords might remind some Appalachia-based listeners of an It’s Birds interlude track called “We Want and Want to Have Our Cakes“. Both give listeners a minute to process the feelings unearthed by the previous track. The transition into “Sinner God” as the album reaches its closing couplet of songs is nice and seamless.
The shuffling lead guitar does something like a clean and soft version of System Of A Down‘s “A.D.D.”, while the rhythm guitar lays down some eerie chords with cool math rock rhythmic motif. Bö laments, ‘I can’t help myself from loving loving you‘ just before a hefty dose of fuzz and what sounds like a Sigur Rós-style bowed guitar lead. It’s also just striking how adept this band is at progressive song structured, because despite having heaps of distinct parts, it also flows together as naturally as a river. Caddywhompus comes to mind as another band that excels in this way, “Layers” upon layers, peeling and stacking, curving and gliding.
The spirited “Sinner God” is no easy track to follow, but the closing song “Slow Divers” does a decent enough job. Like its title suggests, it’s a slow burner. Listening to it, one might imagine being wasted in a floaty tube on a lazy river, or watching the clock crawl towards 5pm on a Tuesday. Perhaps a hearty bong rip or two would enhance the experience of it. The dive doesn’t overstay, though (it’s only a couple seconds past 420), so kudos for the conciseness.
This is an incredibly strong debut album. Between this and that new Narrow Head record, alternative rock is starting off rather OP in 2023. It Turns Pale is nostalgic and yet also a breath of fresh air. The post-rock elements bring an emotional depth to the noise, and in turn that raucousness binds a sense of excitement to the serenity. What’s left to say? Cosse really nails it on this album, bravo.