Coate is a four people band from Christchurch, formed in mid 2010. One year after their creation, they have their first official release : two brothers, Will (guitar/ vocals) and Thomas Roud (bass), with Taylor Welsh (guitar) and Dan Black (drums). They recorded it in January 2011, in a church, using a Tascam 32 reel-to-reel tape machine, gloriously represented on the artwork.
The first impression is that it sounds quite well considering the technical limitations and analog method. Of course it may not be a perfect full and vast sound as recorded digitally in but it is nicely balanced, clear and refreshing (with no hiss).
Another surprise is how much their music is quiet, even the noisy parts never come wild enough to be offensive, even if they keep it tense and dynamic, they finally achieve a mix of emocore and slowcore, very much like it was defined during the late nineties by bands such as American Football, Purplene, Very Secretary or Mineral.
It's surprising how they have been able to emulate this style and make in their own, for their generation, their area and their local scene, making it sound authentic even several thousands of kilometers away, on the other side of the planet. Another reference from even older times, but indirect, would be Sunny Day Real Estate as Will Roud's style of singing and color of voice is not so far from the best side of Jeremy Enigk. With a more recent perspective, names of bands such as This Town Needs Guns, Penpal, Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), Pennines, or Mountains for Clouds could be considered as contemporaries.
What sets apart Coate is the quality of their songwriting, intimate vocals, personal dimension, melancholic atmospheres and cathartic dimension shared by the members.
At times it may sounds greenish but, for such a young band, it is still a good quality, a proof of their authenticity. You can feel that are developing a subtle language of their own, using words and grammar of the genre but creating stylistic devices embracing subtly feelings and tension.
If you know American Football and Mineral by heart, "Good, Our First Catch Of The Day" will fulfill you of nostalgia but there is something more because after having listened to it thirty times, the feelings are still not exhausted. Maybe it comes from the nuances of Will's voice, almost whispering introversively at times as the guitars and rhythms move an return like waves at sea. It's easy to imagine you walking along the sea, on the sand, or just outside during windy and rainy weather.
You'll lose all your doubts with "I Smoked The Wrong End Of A Cigarette" which is an instant classic. There is an older version of this song which was their visiting card before the release of this album. While this first version was already memorable, they really pushed it to the next level, and now it sounds more deep, more textured, with an understated complexity and welcome nuances. There is a really nice interplay between guitars and bass which is promising in terms of future developments - something potentially à la C-Clamp, Seam, Six Parts Seven maybe?
There is something stimulating with their songs, maybe their kiwi touch, suddenly you forget the references and only focus on Coate. Just in time for the punch that is "Out Of Restlessness", intense and tense, stirring and liberating, dynamic and windy, wild but under control.
I'm less convinced by the next track "New Is The Old Neue"where the vocals overplay and are counterproductive with the tensions contained. Globally there is something unbalanced and not fully explored with this song which would have justified a complete reworking but just exists now as a very average tense and slow emocore song.
It is followed by a spoken word track, written and read by Jos Van Beek. It shows how variable can be the sound of Coate, here again, the interplay between guitars and bass is interesting and shows a certain potential. It is a pleasant track
Much more achieved is "New Year", nicely desperate and twisted, fluid and moving, going forward. It is a really successful and precious song.
The last two songs, "Everybody!" and the referentially "The One With The Trumpet" see them as pretenders of the American Football legacy, and more than ten years after the self-titled it's somewhat aesthetically royalty-free to make it their own.
Anyways, "Everybody!", after the first half, once the vocals enters, starts to explore a totally different and as sublime territory, until the melancholic hymnal final.
The album ends with the free adaptation of the American Football song, "The one with the wurlitzer / tambourine", with a copycat trumpet melody, but as in the "Bull and the Frog" fable, Coate falls short with their ambitions.
"Coate (kōt)" is a highly recommended debut album/EP, from a young band still in full growth, and if there are obvious errors and weaknesses on certain tracks, other ones give a lasting and strong impression ("Good, Our First Catch Of The Day", "I Smoked The Wrong End Of A Cigarette", "Out Of Restlessness", "New Year" and "Everybody!"). A band to follow closely.