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Coffee - "Ocean Fruit / Big Hug" | Album Review


by Kris Handel (@khandel84)

Coffee is the project of the prolific and versatile duo of Andy Molholt (Laser Background/Speedy Ortiz) and Julian Fader (Ava Luna/Katie Von Schleicher) who have spent time playing in and producing in a large number bands and projects over the past decade. Molholt and Fader have worked with each other before and their familiarity with each other brings a sense of togetherness into a varied and occasionally chaotic soundscape. Both of these musicians use their experiences in their other projects to their benefit and bring little bits and pieces from those to add some creative flourishes that bring a different dimension to both of these releases. Both of these releases clock in at slightly over 20 minutes each but the different environments they create have a lot to offer and in no way feel rushed.

Ocean Fruit is definitely the more experimental of the tapes, with a lot of psych-pop flourishes and unexpected twists and turns strewn throughout the 13 songs. “I” starts the record off with some ethereal vocals floating over a slow synth hum and finely picked guitar til it explodes into a crescendo loudly announcing its ending. Two of the more interesting listening experiences on this release are “X” and “J” which see both musicians stretching themselves instrumentally and vocally. “X” is a really well done piece of eccentric psych pop soundscaping complete with bleating keyboards and some metronomic drumming, while “J” sways along with some very proggy touches and altered vocals alternating between apocalyptic ranting and despaired panic. “D” is one of the highlights of the more straightforward exercises that tie the record to the ground between flights into outer space that the rest of this record aims to take you on.

On Big Hug, Fader and Molholt play it a little more straightforward and bring a bit more song-structure and post-punk leanings to the proceedings. “N” and “V” are two of the standout tracks of these releases, with some very well worked harmonizing between Fader and Molholt over some crunching rhythm guitar laying down the foundation on “N”. “V” opens with a fairly heart-wrenching salvo of “If I never stood for anything good/I wouldn’t be standing here now” over wavering and vibrato-laden guitar leads and drifting keyboard. Another strong statement on this record is the drawling and loping twang throughout “E” that evokes a little bit of that desert punk feel the early recordings of the Meat Puppets made their bones on. 

Both of these tapes are completely different listening experiences, each rewarding in their own ways, they also show off the impressive versatility Molholt and Fader bring as musicians and songwriters. Fader and Molholt use these releases to express themselves musically and indulge in some experimentation in this project and it’s clear they are enjoying the opportunity to do so. There may be a few instances where there’s a lack of cohesion from song to song which can be a little disorienting, but to have two musicians so bravely pushing their boundaries it is part of the fun and freedom in these releases. There’s a sense of wonder and eccentric playfulness in these recordings and in a time where cynicism and outrage sometimes overwhelm, allow yourself a swim in the world of Coffee and let them wrap their arms around with the music.