There’s been a lot of talk – maybe too much talk – about COQ’s Tightrope Walker LP (due 2015 from COQ & CO). Central to COQ’s claims (spurious, some would say) to musical mastery though it may be, Tightrope Walker is not the “key to the mystery” COQ-heads have been awaiting. Closer, perhaps, is an unreleased tape rejected by COQ & CO for its sound quality, or because its positing of COQ as X-rated rapper runs contrary to his burgeoning space-rock niche. In the interests of clarity, I will outline the two works and their connections. I will try to be brief.
Comes round to 66
& tells me
“With these tools,
(Who is W. COQ, a “suite of poems” detailing COQ’s disappearance in the Snowy in 2006)
Impressionistic, not to say oblique, though it may be, the “poem” (such as it is) catches COQ on the cusp of surrender – to W and his “record company” (in the event, 50 copies of More COQ were issued through CIR in 2004), his “studio” (a Tascam 788 digital 8-track and Rode NT3 condenser microphone), his “junkshop menagerie of instruments” (the phrase is W’s). Can he fulfill his mission with these tools, COQ wonders? Gradually – perhaps against his better judgement – he believes he can. They load up (W says “he loads up” [italics mine]) on whiskey, pot, and “fake morphine” (Endone) taken from W’s recently-deceased mother’s bedside table. At 8-9am (basic tracks of “Skinny Motherfucker”, “Gauntlet” and “More COQ” in the hole) COQ, having waited all night at W’s insistence so as not to wake the neighbours, jumps on the drumkit:
[...] says we’re gonna make
a drum ’n’ bass track
Funny thing –
the look in his eyes is so desperate I fall in behind,
make quick coffee and toast,
take my seat at the desk
and inexpertly loop his inexpert drumming
as COQ grooves around the control room,
convinced that with this track
(“lo-fi” hardly does it justice)
he’ll “phone home”.
The resultant piece – “Future Empire” (“A future empire / song is outlawed / for your own safety” – to the sound of rocks in a washing machine) – may be the first emergence on disk of “the truth” qua COQ as COQ saw it, a truth which would find its most potent expression in the songs “penned” (dripped, splatted, fingerpainted) over the ensuing three years, and collected, for the most part, by W under the banner of Tightrope Walker. For the most part, that is, but for those little-known rap tracks. “Shot Through Time”, COQ’s first stab at hip-hop, is where the details most cohere, when to a loop taken from Howard Shore’s soundtrack to David Cronenberg’s Crash, COQ rhymes:
I saw the towers fall
from the inside
I left the wreckage
in a human disguise
I was a bird
in a sonic sky
Till I slipped through
a hole in time.
Thus (on a track left off the current rough-mixed Tightrope Walker in favour of throwaways “Deadbeat” and “Lightweight” [the title says it all]) emerged the byline, quoted ad nauseum by COQ & CO: “a concept album [italics mine] about a dimension-traveller, part-man part-bird, shot through time via an irreality lacuna centred over Manhattan at the turn of the millenium.” What’s wrong in this picture? Two words: “concept album”. To reconcile the contradictions in COQ’s testimonies in music, granted, is not easy, but a common thread unites them: total conviction. The games with genre and perspective of the lost/amnesiac young writer of COQworks should not fool us; COQ always told it straight. The one thing Tightrope Walker is not is a concept.
(And besides, with the addition of goodtime tracks like the above – always a stock in trade for COQ the performer – a flimsy concept it would make, buoyed up to a degree by the retro-futurist abstractions of “(I’m) The New” and the title track but cohering only in light of COQ’s last sermons on the subject – his amnesia put paid to, we assume, by the lucent mountain air – as quoted in Who is W. COQ, for the most part a record, via the prosaic poetry of W, of COQ’s eventual disappearance at Deddick near Snowy River in winter 2006. That, we are told, post-human fembots keep members of “the COQ” for stud, hypnotised by soundwaves in undersea vaults, while it may help explain the paranoic “Sex Crime” (“Sonic warfare, they hunt us with trance / Autotune us to the metronome dance”) or the masochistic “She’s Not Human” (“She’s not human but you know that’s how I like them”), does not justify the poetry, just as the subterranean misadventures of 5D pornstar Buck Wilder in COQ’s “The Contract” may sicken even as they enlighten, threatening to destroy the tripartite edifice of Vanishing Points with their sheer instinctualness, reflecting, perhaps, more on the writer than his character.)
That said, two more words, essential in any biography of the artist, correct the context as it stands: W. COQ believed himself shot through time via an irreality lacuna centred over Manhattan. He believed himself part-man part-bird (or ray), and pursued by amphibious androids even as his Stockholm Syndrome programming made him desire them. Though his cohorts at COQ & CO may find it embarrassing, as his agent I was given to understand: that “phone home” line was no joke! COQ, the stranger, wanted finding, even if by his captors. My task, now as then, is to facilitate. Brody to the future: Snowy River 2006, that’s where you’ll find him.
(M. Brody, Hope Valley, Dec 2014)