Monday, June 4, 2012

Still by Cosmicity

Cosmicity is one of the early synthpop "bands" of the post-crash, internet driven phase of the genre, having been around since sometime in the early 90s at least (the first CD, The Vision has an original 1994 release date, and there's apparently unreleased material out there older than that.)  Cosmicity also isn't really a "band" since it's pretty much just one guy, Mark Nicholas.

Cosmicity was also one of the earliest signees to the A Different Drum label, and makes a number of appearances on early compilations and whatnot released by Todd.  This, of course, meant that they have one of the longest pedigrees of post-popular synthpop out there, and that I've been following them almost that long--since the late 1990s, at least.  I've got almost all of the Cosmicity catalog; I picked up Isabella on CD early on, and the re-released double CD of The Vision and The Moment.  Later, when I first had an emusic account, I got The Binary Language of Love, Pure, Renaissance and Escape Pod for Two, as well as a bunch of remixes and whatnot.  More recently, I bought Resynthesized and Ascii Cupcake as well as a couple more remixes as mp3 downloads.  Perhaps fittingly, most of my Cosmicity collection has been picked up as digital downloads.  I recently converted everything I could to mp3, attempting to make a CD-R of mp3s that had the entire collection.  However... it wouldn't all fit.  I managed to leave The Vision and The Moment off, and then only had to cut a single song or two from the rest of the collection, so I did that, and over the last week or so, I listened to the entire Cosmicity catalog (almost) in chronological order.  Then, I started it over again (my car is queued up near the beginning of The Moment again as we speak.  Since I couldn't fit them on the CD-R, I just brought them along in old-fashioned CD format.)

I don't have Syn or Forgive Me My Syns, nor do I have the two CDs or so released under the Mark Nicholas (instead of Cosmicity) name--presumably because they were different in style.  In fact, I had thought he had abandoned the Cosmicity name completely, but recently I just discovered the existance of Ascii Cupcake which was released in 2010; an EP of Cosmicity material.  His output did slow considerably in the last decade, though--although his marriage, becoming a father, and dabbling under a different "brand name" in a different style of music makes it seem much slower than it really is.

An important part of the Cosmicity experience, shown a little in the video below, is the cult of personality that Mark has developed around himself.  All of his songs are quite personal; most even autobiographical, at least somewhat.  And if you read his liner notes, comments on his webpage, and elsewhere, one gets the impression that Mark is really "out there" socially--really sharing almost to the point of TMI.  He even comes across as kinda primadonna or diva-like; but somehow instead of that coming across as unmanly and annoying, he manages to make it somewhat self-deprecating and even charming.  The only exception to this is that there's a fairly strong undercurrent of whininess and petulance about the reaction from fans, his label, and others to Syn and what it represented; both a stylistic departure from the Cosmicity norm, as well as an attempt to be dark, edgy, and cuss a lot.  This apparently didn't go over well, and the musical style has never appealed to me either (I heard some samples of Syn earlier on an earlier iteration of his website (I believe) and The Moment also previews a lot of the sound and approach on some of its material.)  Luckily, he's mostly left that side alone, or at least walled it off away from the Cosmicity name and released it under his own name and as a different brand.

My own interactions, scant as they have been, with Mark, have always been quite pleasant, though.  I sent him a couple of emails when a couple of the tracks from my emusic download of Escape Pod For Two were messed up, but I had cancelled my account with emusic and moved on after getting them (and before they could charge my credit card for another month of membership.)  Although he chided my somewhat for not going to emusic with the problem, he did, in fact, help a brutha out.

Speaking broadly, I'd say my favorite Cosmicity projects are Isabella and Escape Pod For Two.  Getting the two-disc version of Escape Pod is especially desireable, as it features a number of remixes that are really, really good--including the Syrian remix of "Sedgewick", the Raindancer remix of "Departure" and the T.O.Y. remix of "Tinnitus."  Isabella also has some excellent tracks, and some of the remixes are top notch.  Some of them are a bit harder to find, though--the Bongo Club version of "Visionary" and the Red Sweater mix of "Your Beautiful Lie" are hard to find now--although the Extended and David's Groove 100 Mix respectively of each is on Resynthesized.

Pure and Renaissance are a tier slightly lower than those two, full of really good songs and including some of my favorite songs.  Pure also has singles/remixes readily available through Amazon; the DJ Ram remix of "Defeat" is especially recommended.

The Vision and The Moment are considered by Mark himself (it appears) as somewhat crude, unexperienced and primitive, but actually there's a lot of good material on both, especially if you get the 2-disc re-release that has a number of extra tracks and remixes on it.  The Binary Language of Love for whatever reason I could take or leave; it's not actively bad by any means, but none of the material on it really speaks to me.  And Ascii Cupcake is probably too early for me to have any comment on yet--I've only listened to the whole thing through two or three times so far.  So far, though, I think it's really good.

Another curious aside; the Resynthesized remix double CD is a great bargain, even if much of the first half of it is Binary Language material.  Curiously, on Amazon at least, the tracks are kinda messed up.  The first one of the disc-2 material is just a bunch of snaps and crackles, while the second song is actually the first song mislabeled.  In fact, the entire second disc worth of songs is mislabeled and "off" by one.  The good news is that this means you actually have almost all of the tracks, even if you need to go and relabel the tags and filenames.  The bad news is that you're missing one--the Secret Mix of "Awake."  For now, at least, however, you can buy it as an actual CD for only $3 from A Different Drum.  While it's not advertised as such, that's probably a "while supplies last" kind of offer, so get it while you can.  Certainly it's the best way to pick it up.  Although iTunes and CDbaby might not have the same issue that Amazon does; I can't tell from any personal experience.