Saturday, March 05, 2011

artist spotlight: koko relleve + rough cuts ep

Playing in the field behind Dorm 2; Koko Relleve with acoustic guitar,  2007     Today I want to spotlight a good friend of mine, Koko Relleve, and his new self-recorded EP, Rough Cuts.  Sarah and I went to college with Koko and I had the honour of living in dorm with him where he would regularly serenade us with the sounds of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Jack Johnson.  During those Dorm 2 days I watched as his talent and ability grew and today I’m super excited to showcase Koko’s first EP, which he recorded, he’ll tell you, with “an old ibook G4 and one USB condenser microphone,” in the month of December.

     What I love about Rough Cuts is that it is so true to Koko’s character.  There’s nothing flashy or put-on; the songs are down-to-earth and thoughtful like I know him to be.  His songs are incredibly open and vulnerable.  The first line of the first song, “I’m really not that good at what I do.” reflects a man who has pondered his weaknesses and is willing to grow form them.  Thematically Rough Cuts is a meditation on some basic human realities: broken relationships, longing for the eternal, and a genuine grappling with our failures and dreams.  These songs and this man embody a gentleness and humility that I feel can be really lacking in a lot today’s mainstream entertainment industry, and that’s what makes Koko stand out.

Rough Cuts EP comes packaged in a homeade cardboard sleeve.The album opens with the steady acoustic riffs of On My Toes, a humble confession exploring one’s weakness and the need to surround ourselves with those “who will see us through”.  The track’s uncomplicated arrangement adds to its hopeful, reflective sauntering style.  Having now eased us in, Be Free showcases Koko’s feel-good upbeat rhythms as well as the addition of djembe and glockenspiel to accompany the acoustic guitar.  The song transitions into a reggae-flavoured outro: musical correspondence to the lyric’s acknowledgement of the past and the call to face a better future.  Fans of Jack Johnson will feel right at home here.

     Possibly my favourite song is Mountainside, which I’d describe as an acoustic folk ballad about returning home.  The track begins with longing for the familiar but ends contemplating a deeper home-coming of full significance:
Take me home
to the mountainside
where I belong.
Let me breathe
Let the air fill my lungs
Until I cease to be 
I chose the sand against the stone. 
Built a shelter of excuses from the storms. 
Prayin’ for the day when I will leave this place. 
So please take me back.  Take me home.

~ Koko Relleve; “Mountainside”,  Rough Cuts EP 2011
We’ve been invited to explore living well, dying well, and the life hereafter.
Koko Relleve | Jessica Morgan Photography; Victoria, B.C.
     For anyone familiar with the funk/rock quartet, Heavy Get Go, Let Go will become an instant favourite.  Koko was staying with Sarah and I last March while we were living in Eston, SK, and I can remember us jamming together to the earliest renditions of this one.  Koko described it as being similar to Trenchcoat, the first track on Heavy Get Go’s self-titled debut album, as though both songs are written about the same person.  Let Go is the rival to Mountainside for my favourite song, not only because I got to witness its beginnings in my living room, but because it now boasts Rough Cut’s best guitar solo.

     From here on in the EP takes on an eerie, experimental mood.  The following three tracks, Lament I, Just Listen, and Lament II could stand alone as a single three part moment.  The Laments are stripped down, atmospheric and hauntingly poignant.  At times they feel reminiscent of the thoughtful and melodic aspects of the alternative rock band, Thrice.  And lastly, To Sea bookends the album with a song about longing and memories of the past.

     If you’re looking for something new to listen I recommend you check out Rough Cuts, you can listen to online samples at the links listed below.  Koko is also on facebook and myspace, so drop him a line if you get a chance.  He is currently living in Victoria B.C. and regularly plays gigs in the city.

     All the best, my friend!  Let it be.
     Be well.

     We hope to have Koko join us for a Conversation in the near future!  Stay tuned.

Picture of Rough Cuts EP cardboard sleeves belongs to Koko.

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