Cosmo Sheldrake was maybe the weirdest and most wonderful gig of my life. Was it a light show? I hear you cry. Costumes, back up dancers, convoluted framing? Nay, I whisper. A twinkle in my eye. Cosmo Sheldrake appeared onstage, alone, awkward and gangly at around 6”3, and still managed to churn out the most energetic and bizarre show I have ever seen.
This was in part due to the audience. In a cursory glance across the venue, Fiddlers Club — Note: Catching Cosmo before the show, I asked whether he in fact played the fiddle. He did, along with over 30 other instruments — my eyes met swathes of preppy-looking young professionals jostling armpit to armpit with interpretively gyrating hippies. The energy was enormous. It appeared that every person in the room knew the words to most, if not all, of the songs. Personally, I was perplexed. I had long listened to Cosmo Sheldrake on Spotify and found his music entertaining, yet slightly lacking in luster, maybe on account of subpar production. Live, however, his almost Bacchanal response made total sense. Dude’s a fucking genius.
Here’s why: Cosmo Sheldrake has been curating sounds — field recordings, obscure forms of percussion, and weird mouth noises — for years, feverishly blending them into idiosyncratic makeshift instruments, and from there, songs. Between performances, he guided us through each song’s bizarre genetic makeup, a feature tragically absent from his recorded performances. He said of one of the drums: “This is actually cow gristle and bone from a steak I was finishing backstage. I don’t know if Bristol is the right place to say that.” Ironically, I believe the bassline on the same track was the hearty belch of a Cornish pig. On the next song, the melody largely featured a swooning hum, revealed as NASA recordings of the cosmic didjeridoo itself, our actual fucking sun. The audience was loving it.
As the gig neared its end, I almost bitterly considered the prospect that Cosmo Sheldrake’s set was a sadly irreplaceable auditory experience. The clock running out, the man assured us there was hope for our hungry ears yet: “This sound is someone practicing Mongolian overtone chanting next to a waterfall. Apparently a waterfall is the best place to practice Mongolian overtone chanting. So anyone trying to learn Mongolian throat singing, just find a waterfall. Or just turn on the tap really loudly.” I think I’ll just wait for his next gig.