Slow building, intense, experimental jazz/ punk blend born on the streets of Belfast
Lying somewhere between the worlds of sharp, jarring punk and experimental ambient jazz, Belfast four-piece Robocobra Quartet are a hard to pin down, a probing, fringe-grabbing quirk of an act dripping with bizarre, afflicted twiddles and jazzy licks.
The Belfast act’s 2018 second album Plays Hard To Get lays on the beauty of their inaccessibility: tracks are crammed with the kind of flitting yet obscure references you’ll find yourself picking from the bowels of the album 15 or 20 listens in. In between the relatively mellow jazz licks, the haunted vocals go dark at times, but also touch on German hipster football club 1860 Munich, the turn of the century movie “What Lies Beneath”, and the staff of the local Nepalese restaurant.
They’re at their best when the snarl sneaks into the intensity of the choruses, like in “Try Hard”, in which brief moments of bitter intensity give way to lazy slow-jazz solos and delicately pulsing bass.
Main man Chris Ryan contributes on a host of instrumentation and on production, and its his avant-garde tendencies — especially vocally — that seem to shine through this at times disorienting but affecting barrage, dense in changes of tone and temperament.
It’s DIY, ragged, sometimes based around a distinctly oddball free-association, and certifiably not for everyone, but there’s something reassuringly original in what Robocobra Quartet do. It’s in the echoing growl of radio-unfriendly “Pinballs”, titillating titles like “Bar 37 Will Shock You!” (it does), and the utterly surreal, embittered pace changes that fall into otherwise gentle songs. Brilliantly weird.