Coolhaven

Blue Mustache

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

It is not only the versatility of this group's members that make Coolhaven so interesting, and it is also more than their individual musical visions casually taking in aspects of the bizarre and ridiculous as well as the normal and mundane. What makes the Blue Mustache release so striking is the sympathy between the players, the way they think as if three great minds had merged into one. Not only do they have alot of things at their fingertips, they are able to combine them into group musical statements, winding up with compositions that are rich in detail. Change and contrast are ongoing elements and they begin to relish something particularly weird on a track such as "Slow Song," and it is sure to morph into something else while breath is still being drawn. But this is not the nervous, attention-getting quick-change shuffle of a hyper-rehearsed New York downtown band. Coolhaven's music never sounds contrived or like it has been hammered into some kind of strange shape by sweaty paws in a workshop. Rather, it seems like a more natural, relaxed, and friendly process is at work, even if the results may sound like a flock of alien birds gobbling a truckdriver and his truck whilst the radio is stuck on scan. The liner notes by Jan Hiddink point out that this Dutch unit formed sometime in the late '90s seemingly as a laptop trio, but with a great difference. The members all played other instruments, including the hotshot guitar of Lukas Simonis. He and associates Peter Frengler and Hajo Van Doorn had also been involved in many musical projects over the years preceding the introduction of laptops as musical instruments. This was hardly the kind of laptop group in which neophytes stand on-stage slowly attempting to figure out their software, occasionally dropping out of the musical proceedings to answer e-mails. Digital sampling abilities, combined with authentic instruments, the universe of sound bites, and so on and so forth, all add up to a range of sounds that seems to lead everywhere. A typical track might include ancient ethnic rhythms, animal sounds, a satire of '80s pop, and snatches of classical music, the latter aspect delivered with the concern of someone whose parents did take them to the symphony. These kinds of combinations are of course familiar to listeners who have been delving into the avant-garde in its many forms. When Hiddink writes that "nothing is being rediscovered; it is rather dished up again but with a different arrangement," he is perfectly right. Coolhaven proves that innovation is not the only important aspect of good music. Perhaps only following the leads of other great artists, these musicians have put together pieces that work extremely well. This CD, about 45 minutes in length, is both inspiring and a great deal of fun. Fans of avant-garde music and eccentric European rock should be all over it.