Pulco ‘APES’ EP (Folkwit).
Released: 25th November 2013
Score: 8.0 / 10
Ashley Cooke, under the guise of Pulco, is one of the most prolific DIY artists in the UK. In 2013 he released his tenth full-length album, the experimental Clay Cutlery, curated the brilliant Modular Pursuits: 15 Pulco Songs Covered By Various Artists, contributed to the RELYCS collaboration, Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations, and at the end of this month is releasing the APES EP.
The six pieces that comprise APES combine folk, sampled audio, field recordings, and spoken word poetry. In classic Pulco fashion, this is not just a group of songs- it is a sonic collage and all of the elements complement one another extremely well in verse and musical composition. For sake of convenience- l refer to this as experimental lo-fi folk. And it sounds great.
The album begins with a backdrop of a field-recording of a bustling crowd, over which Pulco, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar sings Maybe You Just Vibrate. The guitar, combined with the ambient sounds of the crowd, and the softly sung vocals fit like a glove. You can almost visualize Pulco busking at a train station. This is a hallmark of Pulco’s writing- the songs are visual. The words and sounds create a scene that the listener is drawn into. There are warm places in this cold world and Maybe You Just Vibrate is one of them.
The use of field recordings continues into the second piece, Further Tales From The Datanet, which is an otherwise spoken word piece about the grandeur and the hassle of our Internet-connected world. Pulco’s poems are simply worded- and never contrived or sappy. He is very much an observational poet and songwriter, a reporter from the frontline of humanity- and all of the six pieces on APES play like dispatches from the front.
Double Denim, for me, is the high point of APES. Once again the arrangement consists of a single acoustic guitar. Pulco sings a clever, upbeat but weary, sentimental, song about those that prefer the full-denim kit. The ending brings in sampled sounds of two people discussing rape, household noises, and enthusiastic hand clapping, with a doubled harmony. It would be easy to slot the “songs” on APES as folk- but the collage of sampled sounds and clever imagery takes Double Denim to a realm that is definitely outside of anything resembling folk music.
Poem 2 uses field recordings to provide a grounding over which Pulco’s spoken word poetry stands out as a voice in the crowd. This piece describes the simultaneous living of typical lives- where everyone invents their own world and where we make a big deal out of trivial events. The human species is described like an ant colony- over here one boils a kettle, over here some one cleans football shoes, and over there one dies. We are all connected and at the same time isolated. The spoken word poems are as complex as any of Pulco’s lyrics and they are kept short- there is a calm urgency to them.
The APES EP closes with two very short and beautiful acoustic songs. Kudos Credos and Spectrum Russians are stories drawn from life in the most unashamed and vulnerable-yet-fearless manner. Kudos Credos is the only song on the EP that is unadorned by electronica. It is a simple song about the chances and changes that make up our lives. Spectrum Russians is enhanced by the out of context use of doo-wop harmonies and a killer chorus, “I’ve got strings controlling me, I’ve got thoughts that bother me, in my life.” It is a great, yet understated, melody carried by a great performance.
The APES EP is definitely one of the “quieter” Pulco albums- but please be warned, I have heard early indications that the next one, scheduled for 2014 release, is going to be a scorcher. That being said, APES is both a great introduction to the music of Pulco, and a must have for long-time fans. Double Denim and Spectrum Russians are two of his best songs. Ever. The subtle use of field recordings and spoken word pieces make each part of the APES EP interesting- and keep the listener guessing. Ashley Cooke continues to surprise and delight with his on-going sonic experimentations and refusal to either slow down or anchor himself to a particular musical genre. Note to Pulco- do not slow down.
You can stream and purchase the digital version of the APES EP at Pulco’s Bandcamp page. Pulco’s website can be found here & he’s also on Facebook. You can also purchase the limited edition CD version of APES via Pulco’s Tumblr.