The Cooling Pearls
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The Cooling Pearls

Oxford, England, United Kingdom | SELF

Oxford, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Folk Alternative


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The lovingly designed lyric sheet that accompanies The Cooling Pearls’ debut album is an early give-away to the delicate, pretty, slightly desolate music on the CD. That the band is made up of local singer-songwriter Aiden Canaday and violinist Sian Williams from Cat Matador, along with Alex Pratchett, should give an indication of
the quality as well as the mood of the album; ‘The Honoured Meal…’ is pleasingly lo-fi in a way that helps rather than hinders the songs, and with an almost haunted feel about the best songs. Aiden has always had a slightly slipshod feel about both his appearance and his songs, which has always been endearing but can make for a frustrating live spectacle – notably his nervy Punt appearance back in May – but on CD that doesn’t matter, as his soft, yet surprisingly strong voice adds a funereal gravity to somnambulating melodies, Sian’s gently circling violin and pretty but understated backing vocals bringing the songs to life, pale and thin, slightly clumsy, blinking at the bright sunlight outside. Like D Gwalia and Samuel Zasada, those other arch-miserablists who have charmed us this year, The Cooling Pearls sound like they exist in a separate world to the rest of us, one of decaying gothic architecture and unending shelves of yellowing tragic-romantic novels. In fact much of this album feels like it was written and performed in the middle of someone’s dream – reach out and try to touch the tunes as they sadly troop before you and they’d turn to dust. But that simply makes the album all the more rewarding to sink into. And sink into it you must, because slender and melancholic though its songs are, once you shut outside the noise of the outside world, you’re consumed by pastoral lullabies that are too sweet to be murder ballads, too unsettling to comfort souls around a late-night hearth. From the hypnotic, neatly-plucked opener, ‘Lucy Alaska’, to the closing chant of ‘The Future Is Beautiful’, this is an album modest in means but big of heart, a nearperfect accompaniment to chill autumn evenings. (Dale Kattack) - Nightshift Magazine, Dec '10.

When it comes to album artwork, The Cooling Pearls have it down – they should get a prize for the best sleeve we’ve had in for a while. Everything is hand-drawn and beautifully conceived. It really makes a difference when a band makes an effort with the packaging like this. Musically, it’s similarly lo-fi; the strings and keys are lovely and the lyrics eerily beautiful, at times sounding reminiscent of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith – just what you’d expect when Aiden Canaday is involved, a songwriter who has been around the Oxfordscene for quite some time. The highlights come towards the end of the album, helped along by the female vocals, gorgeous violin accompaniment, even a little accordion dreaminess and an excellent chanted finish on “The Future is Beautiful”. (Holly Davis) - Oxfordshire Music Scene, Winter '10

OMB’s first introduction to The Cooling Pearls was through an Aiden Canaday solo set at this year’s Prison Rules at Oxford Castle. The set was greeted initially with bemusement; Aiden’s apathetic delivery seemed at odds with the songs’ material and it was hard to gauge what kind of an artist he was, least to say, about three songs in OMB was hooked. It was then, with a sort of timid curiosity that we delved into ‘The Honoured Meal Of The Stranger’, a full-length album with an additional two members.
The Cooling Pearls excel in dark tales that live and breathe an all but forgotten medieval era. This is not just achieved with the low-fi instrumentation, but with an unusual approach to harmony and melody also. The songs that comprise ‘The Honoured Meal Of The Stranger’ feel strangely comfortable in their unflinching skin (even if listening to it isn’t always as comfortable), and at its best this beautiful collection achieves a previously untapped sense of melancholic darkness. Fans of fellow local folk outfit Samuel Zasada will feel in familiar territory with this album, there is a tense uncertainty to many of the songs that they share, in mood at least, with SZ. Listeners who are new to this approach to folk music will be overjoyed to hear how beautiful lonesome darkness can sound when pieced together in this way. Some of the tracks here have a surprising depth too; initially it feels as if each song was built upon a minimalist approach, but further listens expose subtle, delicate layers that guide the tracks with an innate sadness. This use of additional instruments stays true to the aged feel of the songs however as the low-fi ethic remains and you barely notice the over dubs. ‘Honoured Meal…’ is not perfect however. ‘Hot Lovin’ In The Western World’, is as the name might suggests, a clumsy and stale effort that feels a little like left-overs. A song that may have once started as a light-hearted venture and somehow achieved the status of ‘serious song’; Humour doesn’t suit The Cooling Pearls. On the whole though, the beautiful and longing sadness is maintained throughout ‘The Honoured Meal Of The Stranger’, and although this may not lend it well to listening to it in its entirety, (I found splitting it in half, served the unceasing melancholy best) it is a genuinely original collection of songs that seem to physically enjoy winning you over. There is nothing else like this in Oxford, and I can’t imagine this sound replicated by anyone else but The Cooling Pearls. We are lucky to have them. - Oxford Music Blog, Nov '10.


'The Honoured Meal of the Stranger' 2010 (self-released LP)



Conjoured up by Aiden Canaday, Oxford folk collective The Cooling Pearls have been active in parts since late 2006, but it seems that only now are they taking themselves seriously. Aided wonderfully by multi-instrumentalists and good friends Alex Pratchett and Sian Williams, the trio wrote and recorded an album in 2010. Encouraged by praise from the local press they have augmented their line up with musicians from other Oxford acts including We Aeronauts and The Mountain Parade.

Their live shows are getting less rare.