I’d pegged Channel In Channel Out as an intrinsically Germanic construct. Between being released on the Teutonic Karaoke Kalk label, and the curiously cadenced, slightly nasal, vocal delivery of Marcus Cotten, I had pigeonholed The Author and Narrator as belonging to a continuum of quirky electronic / singer-song writing that includes such luminaries as Die Welttraumforscher, Harald Ziegler and Workshop. Reading through the press release that accompanied the album, and the Channel In Channel Out website, I learnt that Herr Cotten actually hails from Portland, Oregon. It’s curious how thought processes can classify information and slot it away in a tidy little compartment without really analysing just why it is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been put there in the first place.
There’s nothing particularly tidy or compartmentalised about The Author and Narrator. And by that, I don’t mean to imply that the album is full of lazy, effects-driven melange used in order to cover up artistic shortcomings, (unlike some modern ‘alternative’ artists, depauperate in any original ideas). Cotten merges musique concrete soundscapes, naive casiotone and strummy guitars together with curiously circular lyrics that paint unforgettable scenes. Take “Them Embedded Company Claws” for instance; “Falling from top of the stairs / Now I’m afraid of heights / They gave me a parachute / For my security”. Drenched in just enough echo to further enhance the dreamlike soundtrack and nocturnal vocal delivery, Channel In Channel Out merges the joyous boy/man wide-eyed-ness of Panda Bear with half-remembered MOR radio hits and the strategies of a host of bedroom auteurs. Without sounding forced or particularly “eclectic” Cotten straddles a host of musical territories, from the Violent Femmes meets Delia Derbyshire style moves of “Drop By Drop I’ll Measure it Myself” to the woozy soundtrack of “A Modulating Perception”, harking back to the most lopsided Bruce Haack production, without the sardonic malice.
“Kind Euphemisms Part B” concludes The Author and Narrator with a gauze draped singsong world of echo. Like Arthur Russell, or Die Welttraumforscher, Marcus Cotten is a true original, there’s no need at all for kind euphemisms. Let The Author and Narrator envelop you. As with plenty of good literature, it may take a while to get into the swing of Channel In Channel Out, but you’ll most likely be glad you made the effort I know I am.