There is something distinctly English about Labyrinth, the latest offering from musician Sophie Cooper, who after playing and recording in various outfits since the early 2000′ appears solo and under her given name for her first release with London-based label Exotic Pylon.
There are the obvious folk influences – with a large portion of the songs built around simple acoustic guitar and Cooper’ breathy vocals – and also a dry humour, most noticeable on tracks like ‘Sexy Sexy Sexy George’ and opener ‘Hello Sophie’ which, as the title suggests is a series of answering machine messages, majority of which are edited down to simple greetings.
The aforementioned folk influences provide the foundations for most of the album, however this seemingly traditional framework of guitar and voice is stripped of its innocence with lo-fi recording techniques and obtrusive samples that at times threaten to swallow the song whole. It is in these moments where the album comes into its own, calling to mind the Leaving Records debut of Julia Holter, or some of the far-out folk experiments of fellow British artist Richard Youngs.
A particular album highlight comes in the form of a cover version of the David Bowie song ‘As the World Falls Down’ from the film Labyrinth (possibly explaining the origin of the album’ title) which is simply called ‘Sarah’ after the films lead character. The cover pushes the hallucinatory imagery of the original into new territory with its sparse, dreamlike soundscapes and ethereal vocals. A similar terrain is explored on ‘Lady Lilac’ – which wouldn’ be out of place on an episode of Twin Peaks – beginning with woozy, pitch-shifting synth lines and scattered, almost tempo-less percussion before dissolving into a single sustained chord, providing a simple, yet effective backdrop for Cooper’ floating vocal delivery.
Labyrinth is an ambitious and ultimately rewarding listen which sits comfortably amongst the experimental English landscape from which is it was borne.