The album was recorded between 2010/11 and once again marked a significant shift in my recording style and approach to music. I had been talking about recording a collaboration with a friend of mine and got thinking about the best way to share bits of the tracks over the web so that we could work on things together?
The Tascam that I had been using had no way of exporting a song track by track so I started to look at alternatives.
In the end, I bought a ZOOM H4 hand-held 4 track recorder that could be connected to a PC and that recorded in WAV file format. It was quite a liberating piece of equipment as it meant that I could finally record anywhere I wanted to.
The collaboration didn’t eventually come together but I did start recording Small Thoughts.
Using the H4 allowed me to make even more of the small amount of spare time that I had. Vocals were recorded in the car whilst Ifan was in Karate and tracks could easily be exported to Cubase for mixing and editing.
Small Thoughts is quite a reflective album and quietly sits as one of
my favourite Pulco releases.
There were no massive upheavals in my life that I had to face up to in
order to record it but there are some great moments on it.
Ash Cooke’s seventh album as Pulco is a collection of bedroom pop, stream of consciousness poems, and Cooke’s relentless quest to master noise. Small Thoughts is as much soul bearing, as it is
experimental. It takes a collection of misaligned jigsaw pieces and creates a complex puzzle, full of beauty, but not readily discernible.
On the opening track, what’s In A Name, Cooke questions, Pulco...
what does it mean, anyway… it can’t be a random collection of letters, signifying nothing. Invoking the Bard, while leading us down
the rabbit hole, Cooke is at once mischievous and legitimately curious. Pulco is as much an exploration of identity and self-awareness, as it is a reflection of Cooke’s life. He is Pulco, and the album proceeds to unveil this fact through sketches of poems, songs, and random bits and clips.
The second track, Place Lid On Me, is sleepily melodic with lyrics that suggest Cooke is weary, ready to be buried. On Oxbow Lake, he compares his life to an oxbow lake, the water formation created by
a river that has meandered off course, stymied and stuck. It’s at once reflective and hopeful, as he recognizes his ambition and need for a new course. The album is dotted with forthright admissions
and subtle insights, all the while driven by Cooke’s steady flow of thoughts and introspection.
The album comes to a head with Travel Lodge Mirror. It opens with a beautiful bit of Spanish guitar before a narrative that has Cooke waking before a mirror, astounded by his reflection and the middle-aged man before him. As he narrates, Cooke comes to accept his lot in life and embrace his identity as a musician, an artist, and a poet. While he contends that his predilections for the arts will ultimately lead to his undoing, these gifts allow him to express small thoughts without appearing self-indulgent.
The album concludes with Mexican Mods Mexican Rockers, which is a cheeky attempt at providing the meaning of Pulco. My favorite explanation, Pulco: Carlos the beardless revolutionary, leader of
the Cuban revolution until it was realized that his face didn’t look good on t-shirts and posters.
He delivers definition upon definition until the album dissipates li
ke a passing reverie, leaving the listener in a wistful, altered state. At the end of it all, it’s clear that Cooke has worked through much
of the mid-life angst, and is ready to embrace his alter ego and its calling.
This is a lo-fi bedroom recording, and there are bits with kids interrupti
ng songs, kids telling stories (i.e., Seahorse See Sheep), and sounds common to a house. For example, Old Stones sounds as if Ash
left the footie game on while taping the track. These subtle glimpses in
to Cooke’s life balance the introspection that mark this recording.
Musically, the album is a mish-mash of noise pop, folk, and power pop. Vocally, Cooke favours Elliott Smith. However, he’s a bit more robust and wont to see the humour in things.