“Well I’ll watch you like an old hawk/ So I guess it means you’re in luck” sings Sheila Bommakanti on Beautiful Dissent’s opening title track. A direct, folk-inspired number, holding the kind of rustic charm that creates the imagery of tumbleweed across quiet roads and vast open spaces.
Bommakanti’s music has slowly crept towards the pedal steel atmospheres that adorn her latest EP, Beautiful Dissent. Her voice, equal parts soft and distinguished, and alongside the pedal steel, form the ideal match.
A veteran throughout the underground over three decades, Bommakanti’s band, Cober, rose to prominence at the turn of the century, with the alt-rock verve of Crashpilot (2000) and The Breaker, which followed two years later.
After the release of The Breaker, Bommakanti decided to fly solo with the project, and as Eulogy (2006) and The Western Cutter (2009) ascended towards those spatial atmospheres not heard on the preceding Cober releases, it wasn’t until Bommakanti’s album under her own name the wonderful 2016 release, Begin Again, that the picture became clearer.
Seven years later we are greeted with Beautiful Dissent. A sonic voyage across vast terrains where time is of no essence whatsoever. For even the casual listener, Cober has always created music that instantly unlocked certain parts of the mind, and for those who engage with music on a regular basis, Cober’s creations fully consume you.
And it doesn’t change on Beautiful Dissent, with tracks like Is Become Clear and Light First – songs lathered with pedal steel lustre, evoking a subtle ecstasy tailor-made for seclusion. Through sheer sonics of it all, a spiritual sense also unravels, and that’s perhaps something you couldn’t have said of Cober’s past releases.
While these moments providing the biggest shift in Cober’s aesthetic, Mi Alma exposes Bommakanti’s natural campfire tone, her voice emerging from the flames like sweet incense. Once again with pedal steel flourishes, this acoustic-led track is effortless songwriting etched to tape.
It ends with There is No Time. A dark echoing instrumental that reaches the farthest point down that same quiet road. What awaits? Who knows, but with Beautiful Dissent we do hope there’s something more in the offing from Bommakanti’s Cober project, because it’s simply been too long.
Beautiful Dissent is out now via East Cape Calling. Purchase from Bandcamp.