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Spotlight on: The C.O.C.O. Sound by C.O.C.O.

Cover of The C.O.C.O. Sound by COCO COCO, The COCO Sound

Everybody knows that it's your civic duty
To let loose sometimes and shake your booty.

What is "the COCO sound?" It's the sound of two people: a bassist/singer (Olivia Ness, whose multi-faceted voice takes care of the melody) and a drummer (Chris Sutton, who usually plays bass with Dub Narcotic Sound System). There is no guitarist; they're sort of like Morphine...only without the saxophone. (The name, from what I can glean, stands for Chris and Olivia from the City of Olympia--or "Oly City").

Sure, it's an exercise in experimentation, but it's also an exercise in Soul searching (the musical kind). The surprising result is how well it works. Creative skinwork and melodic bass lines make up a lot of the slack left by the absence of a third instrument (although the occasional synthesizer shows up). In fact, it occurred to me while listening to The COCO Sound just how unnecessary a guitar is when you have two imaginative people willing to give it their all.

An example of what you can get when this works its best is "Out of Time," which was featured on the Invisible Shield compilation. This is undoubtedly the rare gem in an album full of precious stones, some more perfectly cut than others. "Supercool" ("you're just a super fool", download) goes so far as to omit the bass entirely--to, I might add, terrific effect. One hardly notices its absence until a few listens down the road. Even a lack of lyrics doesn't harm the effect. "Rinse & Spin" contains only Chris singing the words "do the rinse and spin" and Olivia's accented shouting, but I think I smell a hit.

Olivia's vocal stylings are so full of feeling (her voice would sound at home in a smoky nightclub singing torch songs accompanies by solo piano, and her "hey"s are some of the sexiest I've heard), and Sutton's beats so addictive (and deceptive in their simplicity--the man knows when to use a floor tom for effect), that COCO succeeds in spite of its seeming absence of instrumentation. And that sound called The COCO Sound is one I'm going to be listening to for some time. There's just something about that funky bass-and-drums sound (that heart is their logo for a reason) that draws me back for more.

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