Elliot Cole Gets Theatrical on Journals (Vol.1)
Elliot Cole’s latest album Journals (Vol. 1) is unabashedly enigmatic. The song titles are simply dates without the year. Moreover, they’re accompanied by words—for one tune—while the others simply include a single word.
The album solely consists of a guitarist, Jordan Dodson, and cellist, Gabriel Cabezas, conversing with one another with their respective instruments. Sometimes the banter is loud and heated, as is the case on “December 4 (Lovesick)”—any popular culture or historical buffs know the significance of that date?—and “December 14 (Exit Row)”. The instruments are played brash and conflictingly, perhaps quarreling with one another or evidencing an attempt of each one to play more vociferously and swiftly than the other.
Other times they’re in melodious accord, as is demonstrated on the album opener “November 1 (Homesick).” As the title of this tune indicates it’s plaintive in nature, the perfect soundtrack to a film scene in which the hero or heroines is leaving someplace emotional—figuratively and literally, that is. The guitar is rife with samples, the two discourse without any sort of drums or timestamps. The talk is heavy, sparse; there’s plenty of time for staring out the window at the mountains and countryside whizzing past by train.
Cole’s role in these dramas or dialogues, depending on one’s perspective, is as composer. He’s the playwright, the director, the sculptor of sonic material orchestrating a twosome with scribblings on sheets of paper.
The musicians are the players, improvising under his gaze, giving his words, scripts, and lines their own flare for vivacity that becomes as memorable as anything (or rather everything) else is about this piece. On “December 7 (Utah)” the atmosphere of the duo or threesome is pensive, filled with tension articulated by Dodson’s quiet, slow strumming.
His counterpart’s efforts are elongated, streaming patterns of sounds that linger in the air, shades of days and sentiments past, refusing to concede that fact. The high notes are the most persistent, the last ones to leave the table after even the silverware’s been removed.
Typically the piano’s the counterpoint to strings in popular music, as innumerable rap songs illustrate. Cole’s transformed that motif to include the guitar sans the piano, proving there’s still room for innovation in a world that’s oversaturated and quick to replicate.