(Green Mountain Records, CD, digital download)
Before we officially begin this review, I'd like to chat privately with central Vermont's Coquette for a second. Lads, nobody likes a tease. And your sophomore EP, Separatio, is exactly that. I know, I know. Teasing is implied by your band name and, hell, even the title of your new EP suggests you're holding something back — and not just that missing N. But you've got more tricks up your sleeves. And on behalf of the local listening public, I demand to hear them. Soon.
If you're just joining us, Coquette are a teenage trio with members hailing from Randolph, Hartland and Montpelier. The group's new EP, Separatio, is a wonderfully off-kilter and near perfectly executed mashup of classic punk and prog-rock influences that belies their youth. How a group of high schoolers so succinctly and expertly distilled musical cues ranging from Faith No More to Fugazi to Frank Zappa is beyond me. But it matters far less how they did it than simply that they did. (My theory: They have parents, older siblings or weird uncles with ridiculous record collections and great weed. That, or Spotify.)
"Mobius Strip" opens the record with a sinewy little 5/4 guitar riff courtesy of bandleader Cobalt Tolbert that mutates around an equally slippery bass line from Angus Davis. Meanwhile, drummer Titien Tolbert lurks in the shadows, waiting to pounce. Just as the tension builds to an apex, relief comes in the form of an exultant a cappella break that parts the clouds like a chorus of angels. Then things get freaky. What follows is a devilish and danceable dose of guitar riffage and lyrical wordplay that harks back to the kooky funk metal of Mr. Bungle.
"The Shake" offers copious nods to Zappa's theatrical freakouts, but it's tempered with a pop sensibility more akin to the playful funk-punk of early Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Egg of Columbus" begins as a tender, if oddball, ballad, then subsequently delivers more harrowing twists and turns than the Smugglers' Notch road.
Coquette rarely linger on any one idea for too long, and when they do it's often to set up the next creative explosion. Nowhere is this more effective than on the "The Dentist," which closes the EP in fittingly fiery and schizophrenic fashion. Vacillating among proggy guitar histrionics, fist-pumping anthemic metal and furious funk-punk breakdowns, the song, like Coquette themselves, is bewildering and perplexing. But it's undeniably alluring.
The lone problem with Separatio is simply that it's not enough. With a runtime under 20 minutes, the EP's four cuts serve only to whet the appetite to a profound and frustrating degree. It's musical MSG. The more you consume, the more you want, until you become a salty, bloated mess that can never be fully satiated. We're hungry, Coquette.