Album Review: Cots, ‘Disturbing Body’

    A multi-disciplinary artist and multi-instrumentalist, Steph Yates has clearly done a lot. A brief perusal of her website brings up compositions, animations, and sculptures, even before getting to the music. Known for Ontario musical projects Esther Grey and Cupcake Ductape, Yates now operates under the Cots name, and this debut album, Disturbing Body, is intensely thoughtful and emotionally complex. There are weighty ideas here: Yates is concerned with mysteries of love and attraction within our universe. “These songs, for the most part, have to do with the heart,” Yates said, and you can sense it in this collection of songs; the record is an evidently personal creation. 

    Perhaps given the grand subject matter, one would have expected a sonic palette of equal majesty, but it’s missing on Disturbing Body. Instead, Yates opts for simpler instrumentation, favouring brushes of acoustic guitar, hints of furtive bossa nova, and slight jazz interjections. What the meagre backdrop does too, however, is present Yates as a writer of terrific ability: the intricate and contemplative narrative in ‘Our Breath’ and the poetic structure of ‘Last Sip’ mark her as a writer in musician’s clothing (from her website, only one chapbook relating to art appears under ‘Writing’). “The saddest breath of the bottle is your last sip,” begins ‘Last Sip’, a supremely gut-wrenching line. The closing song, ‘Midnight at the Station’, also sees Yates paint a wonderful snapshot of the busy goings-on at a train station. 

    The atmosphere is disruptively eerie and haunting throughout, from the first erratic notes of the title track to the depressive strumming in ‘Last Sip’ to the slow and hazy jazz of ‘Sun-Spotted Apple’. When bossa nova is incorporated, it’s never domineering, remaining just slightly danceable. One such track, ‘Bitter Part of the Fruit’, is an upbeat ode to accepting the good with the bad in life (“In needing the antidote/ Look for the bitter part of the fruit”). Illuminating horns and strings also colour the stunningly morbid ‘Flowers’, Yates singing coyly, “Flowers on the body dead/ Flowers I sent.” She might not possess an expansive vocal range, but her confrontational and haunting delivery matches the words and the atmosphere exquisitely. 

    The Montreal-based artist’s achievement on Disrupting Body is considerably modest but appealingly so. As an intimate presentation of the strange balance between love and attraction, life and death, the album holds a delicate beauty. Yates is a true artist, no matter which form she takes. 

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    Album Review: Cots, 'Disturbing Body'A multi-disciplinary artist and multi-instrumentalist, Steph Yates has clearly done a lot. A brief perusal of her website brings up compositions, animations, and sculptures, even before getting to the music. Known for Ontario musical projects Esther Grey and Cupcake Ductape, Yates now operates under...