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30 August 2011

Lol Coxhill - 'The Joy of Paranoia' (Ogun)

Sometimes when I am going through a mild personal freakout, either a "why the fuck do I have so many records?" moment (which I call armchair zen) or a "do i even really like music?" moment, I'll think about all the records I never listen to as a key element (but I'm never sure if it's cause or effect). So I'll have these moments where I wonder why I need to own four different LPs by Lol Coxhill when I never listen to them, etcetera etcetera. This project was embarked upon partially to conquer these freakouts, and genuinely assess all of this plastic and vinyl I drag around with me from place to place, which is not so easy to deal with when you move to a new country every 3 years. Most of the time I end up finding new pleasures here, as I think I've only come across one or two LPs so far that I don't enjoy at all anymore -- yes, I tossed that second Arti + Mestieri record already. I've loved the first 3 Coxhill records here, and had fond memories of Joy of Paranoia. This memory has been mostly upheld, though I'd probably say it's my least favourite of the four. How much you enjoy the paranoia depends on how much you like guitars; side one is an 18 minute jam with three guitarists I've never heard of, one acoustic, one electric, and one bass. Lol is on soprano throughout -- throughout the entire LP - and I think he works well with the other guys. The Spanish guitar in particular gives it a real gentle, adult-oriented-improv feel, and they spill into all margins of speed, timbre and motion over the track. Side two begins with a four-part suite with Veryan Weston on piano, which is playful; the two don't so much intertwine as provoke, and there's a wooly tone to the sax like it's been muted. Or maybe I just need a new stylus. The fourth part of this suite is called 'Prelude to paranoia' and it leads into a solo piece, the almost-title track of the album ('Joy of Paranoia Waltz'). And what a track! This is some multitracked soprano sax, ascending and descending simultaneously to create the maddening tapestry it's title suggests. Paranoia is pleasure here; it's not claustrophobic or even that demanding, but it's an intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 12 seconds - go hear it on YouTube if you don't believe me. It's a Coxhill jam for mixtapes and DJ sets, and it's exuberance is infectious. The last two tracks are longer live improvisations with a hot electric pianist, Michael Garrick. The playful attitude remains though it's most edgy than the acoustic piano tracks with Weston; they combine to make side two a symmetrical sandwich balanced around 'Joy of Paranoia Waltz', with some crowd enthusiasm and applause sprinkled in. 'Perdido' has a great piano solo that is sorta funky at times, or maybe I should say chunky; this brings out Lol's more tuneful side, which is reassuring. Trying to describe these tracks makes them sound pedestrian but they are anything but. Though this album feels a bit like a mishmash of disparate sessions, in a way all four of the records under consideration here have had that attribute. The liner notes here are even more earnest than Ear of Beholder's spoken sections ("I hope that those who accept my more extreme outpourings will find this music as interesting as I did at the time of recording") and that just adds to all the fucking charm this guy has built with me over the past four entries. Sadly, my accumulation of all things Coxhill terminates here.

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