- Coquette, NOAUDIENCE: The Mandrill
Some bands you hear about because they delight audiences. Some you hear about because they terrify the hell out of other musicians. For me, in the case of central Vermont's Coquette, it was both. I'd heard about the young local rock trio's dynamite live shows and supernatural talent for a full year before I finally saw the group at Nectar's in Burlington and got my face duly melted. At the time, its members were just out of high school and already one of the tightest, wildest bands in the state.
Brothers Cobalt (guitar) and Titien (drums) Tolbert and bassist Angus Davis comprised a force of nature, producing the kind of raw magic that makes rock and roll great. Their sound was complex, too, as much prog as punk. This was a band comfortable in many genres and happy to cram several of them into the same song.
Coquette formed at Sharon Academy and celebrated graduation by recording their 2013 debut, The Mandrill EP. It was a brash, exciting ride, rough around the edges but still undeniable. After a whirlwind run of shows, festivals and increasingly complex compositions, Coquette called it quits with the release of their third and final EP, Three, at the end of 2016.
But with the world on hold amid the pandemic, the trio has gathered again in Vermont and seized the opportunity for a project it had always wanted to pursue: recording its entire catalog live, complete with a film crew to document every track. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, of course, there's no crowd. The first release in the series, NOAUDIENCE: The Mandrill, is a full-circle moment in which the band revisits its debut.
As you might expect, the trio's chops have gotten more ferocious with time. This is especially evident in the vocal work. Coquette have always incorporated big harmonies into their music, but, early on, ambition often exceeded their intonation. Those days are long gone. These are muscular, dynamic performances that sound even better than the originals.
Opener "Rabbit Season" is a knockout punch. Surf-thrash workout "IN/Side" cooks hotter than ever. Closing cut "Homo Inferior" is a whole new animal, with more bottom to the funk and a heavy metal edge.
Overall, the crew hews closely to the original EP and does it in order. Yet there's a lot to delight those familiar with the recording. The subtle reworkings of tracks such as "Zenith" and "Copernicus the Capricorn" reflect both musical maturity and restless creativity. Coquette are still exploring, still searching.
I know I'm not alone in wondering whether having all this time together will result in new Coquette material. In the meantime, the NOAUDIENCE series is powerful stuff — another edition, NOAUDIENCE: Separatio, was released in April. Also check out the full live experience on YouTube, because these young men absolutely hurl themselves into every track.
For longtime fans, these new recordings are a rare treat, and for new listeners they're an ideal introduction. Lean and clean, NOAUDIENCE: The Mandrill shows Coquette stripped down to their essence. The album is a victory lap for one of the tightest trios Vermont has ever produced.
NOAUDIENCE: The Mandrill is available at bandnamedcoquette.bandcamp.com.