NOBODY knows the inner rhythms and quietly devastating moodswings of downtempo music better than Chris Coco. An internationally acclaimed DJ and producer, Chris was a pioneer of crafted, evocative, electronic sound paintings years before the recent resurgence in chill-out compilations. Now he has rounded off a decade of musical experimentation and inspired collaboration with 'Next Wave', his debut release for Distinctive Breaks and the next evolutionary step in moodscape albums. Recorded in the same boundary-pushing spirit as Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica’, the Orb's ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld' and Death In Vegas' 'The Contino Sessions', 'Next Wave' offers up a rich, wide, deep ocean of sound.
The road to 'Next Wave' has been long and winding. Raised in Sussex, Chris was a prime mover in the acid house boom of the late Eighties. His Frenzy and Coco Club nights turned Brighton's Zap Cub into the South Coast's rave epicentre while, as half of Coco Steel + Lovebomb, he penned such party classics as 'Feel It'. But his more complex, downbeat side was already starting to emerge on the group's debut album 'It', released on Warp in 1994. Drawn to increasingly chilled sounds, Chris reconnected with a passion for moody electronica, dub reggae and film soundtracks first nurtured as a youthful fan of New Order, Cabaret Voltaire and The Art Of Noise.
Chris spent the late Nineties juggling multiple careers. Under his real name, Chris Mellor, he became a music journalist and editor of DJ Magazine - a delicate balancing act which eventually clashed with his musical commitments, although he still reviews mellow-tronica for Muzik and hosts a weekly downtempo show on Jazz FM. Meanwhile, in his Chris Coco guise, he became a globe-trotting chill-out champion, spinning everywhere from Gatecrasher to Manumission, Montreal to Moscow. While still collaborating on upbeat club anthems with Rui Da Silva and Stonebridge - both of whom appear on 'Next Wave' - he compiled the 'Solar Spectrums', 'Real Ibiza' and 'Acoustic Chill' collections. He also found time to remix tracks by Badmarsh + Shri, Afterlife, Giorgio Moroder and others.
But all these developments now seem like stepping stones towards 'Next Wave', which yokes together all of Chris' musical identities into one multi-layered, many-splendoured, beautifully sequenced journey. Mostly co-written with classically trained multi-instrumentalist Sacha Puttnam, Chris' first solo album is a record whose 14 tracks stand alone as emphatic statements, not as fuzzy New Age filler or pastel-hued wallpaper. A downbeat symphony full of grown-up soul and unplugged emotion, visiting all stations between autumnal regret and sky-kissing euphoria.
"Because I've spent a lot of time DJ-ing it makes sense to me to have a lot of different moods," says Chris. "That's the art of really good DJ-ing, especially in chill-out music, because you can take people from ambient to house to guitar music - all over the place. If you step outside of dance music's formulaic rules and do downtempo electronic music, then you can do anything, bring in any sounds, have any kind of level going up and down."
An awesome guest list of collaborators help to make 'Next Wave' a rich tapestry of moods and influences, showcasing a dazzling diversity not just in music but in other cultural spheres too. It is an audaciously eclectic mix, with guest vocals by legendary singer/songwriter Nick Cave on 'Sunday Morning,' film superstar Patrick Bergin on 'Only Love', cult author Iain Banks on 'Dreaming' - and even the sampled tones of veteran dissident activist Noam Chomsky on 'Revolution'.
Nick Cave's spectral cover of Lou Reed's melancholy comedown classic, his debut foray into electronic music, represents a dream come true for Chris. "You start with a fantasy list of people you would most like to work with, and Nick was top of the list just because he's a legendary character," Chris explains. "He's always had that kind of emotional intensity about him which I really like."
Patrick Bergin, the star of 'Sleeping With The Enemy' and 'Robin Hood' was invited to improvise the eerie nocturnal mantra 'Only Love' after Chris discovered the Irish-born screen idol lived in his own native Brighton. "He was just about to go off and play Dracula in Budapest," says Chris, "so he was in this kind of dark, foresty kind of mood. We just gave him the music and he started singing about the moon. He was all fired up about Dracula and forests and eyes in trees."
'Next Wave' also features three collaborations with Glaswegian country siren Monica Queen, whose lonesome-prairie sobs graced Belle + Sebastian’s ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’. And on 'Falling', there is even a highly unusual telephone vocal from Gavin Rosdale of multi-platinum rockers Bush. "Gavin might not be dead trendy, but he's got a fucking good voice," Chris insists. But the true vocal honours belong to Chris's seven-year-old son, Wesley, whose verbal daydreaming inspired the sublime dubtronic lament 'All Of My Beautiful Friends'.
The credits to 'Next Wave' include dedications to ambient and soundtrack pioneers such as Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, Vangelis and Eric Satie. The godfather of spine-tingling minimalism, Satie's crystalline 'Trois Gymnopedies' even inspired three of the album's pieces.
Ibiza chill-out king Jose Padilla also gets a namecheck. Too many lightweight downtempo anthologies use the Spanish party paradise as an easy marketing label, but 'Next Wave' is much of an more organic homage to the island's true spirit - rekindling the lost Balearic ideal of sun-kissed eclecticism for a new millennium. Some tracks were even recorded in Ibiza, with authentic local birdsong and lapping waves in the mix. The perfumed reverie of 'My Sunset' reinvents the Mediterranean sundown anthem, while the symphonic grand finale 'Back To Nature' even features Ibizan hippy legend Lenny Ibizarre on bass.
A late convert to Ibiza, Chris had his preconceptions dashed during his first visit in the mid-Nineties. "Ibiza has got that other side to it that is nothing to do with cheesy clubs," he says. "Total hedonism means not just partying and taking loads of drugs but doing whatever gives you the most pleasure, whatever that might be. That's what Ibiza is really good for, so that's why I really love it."
'Next Wave' is the ideal soundtrack to road trips and inner landscapes, beaches and sunsets, bittersweet regret and full-blooded hedonism, magical gatherings and discerning dancefloors alike. The next evolutionary step in chill-out music has arrived.