by Joe Thomas
Coca Leaf are an NYC punk supergroup of sorts, made up of a couple of Sacred Bones alumni (Destruction Unit, Uniform, the Men) and two dudes from Merchandise. While this totally works as a tantalizing press hook, it's only partially indicative of what you can expect from Deep Marble Sunrise. The tripped out maximalism of D-Unit is present as times, as is the sense of gleeful abandon found on, say, Leave Home and Open Your Heart but their main hustles, as exploratory as they can feel in their own right, tend to stick to the possibilities offered by the electric guitar. On this record, the men of Coca Leaf clearly intend to diversify, both in terms of instrumentation and a more experimental stylistic approach. Indeed, each of the LP's six tracks seem intent on taking a wildly different tack and the result is a satisfying, often thrilling trip of an album.
Opener "New Soft Dawn" features chintzy disco synths and comes replete with cowbell and open hi-hats hits. It's a pleasingly funky, upbeat cut, but the party doesn't stay guilt-free for long. The album's disco-funk direction is led down darker avenues on lead single "Riding Ice" and closer "Glaze". Both songs make use of the higher frequencies, either with guitar or theremin, to add a sense of discomfort that suggests an overriding tension between Dionysian indulgence and its inevitable consequences. This is aided by a sinister lead vocal on "Riding Ice" - the only singing on the album - that makes oblique references to the repaying of some cosmic debt. It's the closest the band veers to a traditional post-punk sound, with stabbing, angular guitars and piano that wouldn't sound out of place on a Pop Group record.
"No Light Bleeds the Den" intercedes with a frankly ingenious pairing of electrified-Morricone desert-fried guitars (and/or synths. The production often muddies the timbre of each to interesting effect) with dubbed-out rhythms including a heavy, long delay on the snare drum reminiscent of Lee "Scratch" Perry. The album's greatest stylistic outlier also serves as its highlight in the blocky, square-wave synths of "Marbled Sunset". More meditative than the immediate, freewheeling caterwaul found on the rest of the album, it builds well across its eight minutes. It feels eerie; somehow human and yet oddly sterile, like an early 70's sci-fi film.
Despite it's heady melange of musical elements, the record is held together by a sort of narcotic shroud that hangs over each track. The reverberating drums, the heavy sustain on piano interlude "Twilight Haze," the way the timbres of each melody track can start to bleed into each other, it all coheres to a sticky, technicolor whole. There is an obviously collaborative nature to the project. It's truly experimental and it's very inviting. It feels like a party and while we're all invited, there is the distinct sense that we leave quite a bit stranger than when we showed up.