Cordless, 'EP' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published May 20, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

Cordless, EP
  • Cordless, EP

(Self-released, digital)

Atmosphere is a huge part of an album's compositional makeup, and it's sometimes taken for granted. Who knows what some of the moodiest, most evocative records would sound like if their songs were extricated and plopped down in a stagnant mud field of production? Perhaps they wouldn't be the albums we hold so near and dear. Perhaps we never would have heard them.

The ambience of Middlebury College duo Cordless' debut, simply titled EP, is so grand that it nearly obscures its own devastating poetry. The duo of Maria Bobbitt-Chertock and Noah Sauer blend their ghostly vocals, hypnotic waves of guitar and brittle beats so well, it's easy to get lost in the combination.

Bobbitt-Chertock and Sauer recently left Vermont for New York City and Wisconsin, respectively. But EP was recorded while the close friends were still at the Addison County liberal arts school. Both are now working on individual projects, unsure of whether they'll collaborate in the future.

Cordless' love for Cocteau Twins looms large over EP's five tracks, an obvious affinity that Bobbitt-Chertock confirmed in an email. In addition to the Scottish alternative-rock band's essence, many acts from British label 4AD's 1980s roster, such as Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil, leave a mark on the affecting assemblage of songs. It's pleasantly nostalgic for those who've listened to Cordless' inspirational ancestors but not so much that it's distracting.

"Fossils" opens EP with dreamlike serenity, though palpable angst is sewn into some of Bobbitt-Chertock's phrases. "How can you name what you want / You devour and devour ... You'll pay in kind," they sing, urgently emphasizing their words in a fluttering melisma. The pair's guitar work ripples underneath, reaching jagged peaks at the song's midpoint.

Cordless mask their existential dread well, such as on the sanguine "Anna's Dressing Room." The track's bright beats and briskly picked guitar veil some truly dark imagery ("a melting doll on the shelf caves in on herself"). It exemplifies the clashing elements that make Cordless so compelling. With their velveteen soprano, Bobbitt-Chertock makes anxiety ("Miscounted my breaths again / Had me reeling all day") sound truly lovely.

Perhaps that's a big part of the duo's ethos: turning pain into beauty. The wispy, nearly harp-like guitar work on "In the Clock" cloaks the romantic disquietude heard in its lyrics ("If you touch me now I'll burn this place ... Words come twisted up like ivy stuck in wire"). Only EP's closer, a fiery tune called "Menace," finds a parallel between its musical makeup and its agonized lyrics.

Hopefully the creators of EP will find a way to continue their collaboration. They have too much charisma to let a thousand miles of distance stand in their way.

Stream EP on Spotify.