Belfast’s Robocobra Quartet return with their first new material in three years in the form of a double single “Heaven” / “Night”. The news comes on the heels of their recent signing to Deptford-based label First Taste Records and the announcement of a highly anticipated new album to come later in the year.
Having released two full-length studio albums to date, the new material finds the band revered as cult favourites.
Their musical freedom and proclivity for improvisation often result in Robocobra Quartet being spoken about in the same breath as jazz and experimental music but their background is in punk rock and indie rock just as much as the avant-garde. They simply deal with what they have at their disposal – a collective of six members of wildly different musical backgrounds swapping in and out to make a touring quartet, which has taken them across Europe to Montreux Jazz Festival, Latitude Festival, and as far as Inversia Festival in the polar north of Russia. All while receiving acclaim from the likes of The Quietus, The Line Of Best Fit, Prog, and BBC Radio 6, seeing comparisons to the likes of Fugazi, BadBadNotGood, Tortoise, Black Midi, Black Country, New Road, and Squid.
Improvisation and experimentation are at the core of Robocobra Quartet’s DNA, whether it be in the fluidity of their line-up or in their unique records which flirt with choral groups and string sections – almost intentionally at odds with their ostensible roots as a post-punk band.
These juxtapositions are ever present in the band’s new material, which harks back to the frenetic bite of the band’s debut album “Music For All Occasions” whilst naturally evolving into something altogether more dynamically explorative than ever before.
“Heaven” sees chaotic circular jazz sax lines weave around distorted bass riffing and groove-heavy, propulsive drumming, whilst drummer-vocalist Chris W Ryan throws out sardonic vocals that emotively snap between speaking, shouting, and singing would-be adages across a volatile narrative about capitalism.
Speaking on the first single, “Heaven”, Ryan says: “Heaven is about the cult-like mania of capitalism. I grew up listening to Dead Kennedys and always liked how they would write songs from the perspective of a character they didn’t necessarily agree with. There’s something fascinating about the stories that emerge and I wanted to get inside that extremely chaotic and self-absorbed headspace. I loved the idea of singing as someone so narcissistic they find their newborn child beautiful just because they look alike.”
Conversely, “Night” is one of the band’s most downtempo tracks yet. Born out of a “jam around a sampled chord from one of our old songs”, the song’s instrumentation is minimal yet affecting, whilst Ryan’s vocals night walk through a narrative around the sun setting on youth.
The new singles are also accompanied by two new contrasting videos, one of which sees the band performing upon a rooftop in Belfast, while the second sees Ryan pensively traveling around the city in the back of a cab on a dark and stormy night. You can see them below:
Robocobra Quartet has a rule: “No Guitars Allowed”. Their unique sound, concocted and self-produced in Belfast, Northern Ireland sees that ‘middle’ space filled by other instruments such as saxophones, samplers, keyboards and sound effects swirling around the melodic basslines and powerful drum rhythms which prop up the core of each of their songs. On top of this music sits a single vocal from behind the drum kit amid a fury of rhythm, sometimes marrying perfectly with the pulse of the drums and occasionally at complete odds with it.
For those who have yet to hear them, these new singles are just the beginning of the complex world of Robocobra Quartet – a band serious about their music but humorous in their approach, including members with no musical training alongside members with music conservatoire pedigree. The result is a collective of musicians inspired by Stravinsky and Black Flag in equal measures. On stage, the bands are protons and electrons circling Ryan; meticulous arrangements and on-the-spot improvisations hang on every word. These words and rhythms are what propel the music of Robocobra Quartet forward, and concoct a sound that is groove-driven but cerebral too.
In addition to the new material, Robocobra Quartet has also announced details of a free London headline show at The Shacklewell Arms for 4th March.
“Heaven” / “Night” is out now via First Taste Records – Stream HERE
At the time of writing, Robocobra Quartet currently includes:
Chris W Ryan (Drums, Voice) Nathan Rodgers (Bass, Effects)
Ryan Burrowes (Sampler, Keys, Bass) Peter Howard (Tenor Sax, Alto Sax)
Tom Tabori (Soprano Sax, Sampler, Keys) Thibault Barillon (Tenor Sax)
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