Ora Cogan finds new vitality on the dark, synthy Crickets

The Vancouver singer/songwriter extends her neo-folk foundation to suit songs about resource extraction and gendered violence

If you’ve kept up with singer/songwriter Ora Cogan since her 2007 debut, Tatter, the opening of Crickets might come as a shock. Sea People arrives in rolling dark waves of synths, eschewing Cogan’s established inclination toward earthy arrangements.

If her past five albums epitomize dedication to folk forms, then Crickets is the sound of those traditions being upended. 

Like some unwelcome, encroaching alien presence, synths weave their way through the majority of the songs, mirroring the album’s lyrical themes of resource extraction and gendered violence. 

Many songs celebrate the natural world. The Light’s repeated song title and insistent drum beat symbolize a truth the song’s narrator tries hard to avoid, and throughout Crickets, strings mimic the chirping of the nocturnal insects.

Cogan stirs up a tempest of torrential forces on Wind In The Waves, the heaviest and most gratifying track, as an untameable environment makes its power known. 

This new sound is the product of Cogan’s burgeoning interest in electronics, spurred by a Prophet-6 analog synth. She met musician Tom Deis, who helped her record and perform much of the material over eight days, at an anarchist house show in Philadelphia. His band, Uni Ika Ai, backed her on an east coast tour around the time these songs started to come together, so it was only natural that she would record them with him at his home studio in Philly. 

Additional help came from percussionist Dani Markham (Tune-Yards, Childish Gambino), violinist Russel Kotcher and backup vocalist Maia Friedman. The small but capable group embellish Cogan’s songs in a way that delivers on previous potential. She’s proven herself a gifted songwriter, but in finding a logical way to extend her neo-folk foundation into darkwave territory, Cogan now sounds truly vital.

Top track: Wind In The Waves

Ora Cogan plays the Baby G on Sunday (December 3).

music@nowtoronto.com | @therewasnosound

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