It’s hard to not find quite a heavy bit of crossover between the constantly re-configuring, Canterbury-influenced prog epics in COS’ catalog and the output of someone like Gong, who were ingesting some of the same aesthetics around the time. Chances are, if there are more than a couple of Gong records lying on your shelf, then COS should fit into your life quite nicely. The band pushes further than Allen’s brood, though, letting the high-concept, language-expanding works from Zao and Magma color their early material, and finding more than a few jazz inroads that mirror other Canterbury heads like Caravan and Hatfield & the North.
The band’s epicenter is Daniel Schell, a Belgian artist who would form the band after the dissolution of his previous outfit Classroom in 1968, finally working out a debut as he assembled like-minded travelers for their debut in ‘74. The band would remain a mutable entity from there on out, with long-tenure players, bassist Alain Goutier and keyboardist Charles Loos remaining steady cogs in their chaos along with the surreal vocals of Pascale Son. This collection from Finders Keepers pulls from across their wide-ranging catalog, covering their Prog to New Wave transmissions with a stop at Rock Opera in between.
The band can skew fairly whimsical at times, but then again Canterbury always had a kind of twee tangled in pretense to it. When they gain a heavy edge, as on the thundering “Boehme” the band flashes some brilliance — balancing a kind of proto-Tubeway Army plasticine glam-funk. That the collection makes sense of the band’s trajectory, which winds up with the brittle undercurrents of “Einstein, j’t’aime” and “Achtung TV-Watchers” is quite a high compliment, as their ‘80s works can sometimes lose the hallucinatory edge of their early output. As such, this is an indispensable collection to find the band at their best and most focused. It grabs the gold and places COS into their fitting place among the ‘70s eccentric pscyh explorers.
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