Cotton Mather (Re-?)Issues 1997 Classic Kontiki, At Long Last
Once upon a time, I happened across this CD. I was going through the “Local” racks at one of this city’s few, fine music stores (the long-gone “old” Soundwaves, most likely, before they moved onto Montrose proper), and lo and behold, there was this neat-looking album with an orange/yellow cover and some kind of deep-sea diver figure on it.
And hey, it was on a Houston-based label, Copperrecords, which I’d vaguely heard of somewhere along the line. In the end, that’s what motivated me to pick it up more than anything else, I suspect — I was in a phase where I was feverishly collecting any and all music I could find that either came from A) a Houston band or B) a Houston record label (or both). I had no idea who Cotton Mather were, or if they were even local, but the label was, so why not?
In the end, I never saw another release by Copperrecords, and they faded fairly rapidly into obscurity. The Cotton Mather album, Kontiki, however, turned out to be freaking incredible. The band was heavily, heavily into the Beatles, obviously, but they took that Beatle-love and used it to craft a set of crystalline-perfect, cheerily-smiling psychedelic pop tunes, the likes of which I hadn’t heard up to that point.
I listened to it, liked it quite a bit, reviewed it in the very first issue of the print zine (before that we’d just been a Website that talked about a handful of local bands/labels/etc., with no real reviews or interviews to speak of), and then kept listening to it, over and over and over again.
In time, it ended up being one of a small handful of CDs in my library that I’ve really, truly grown to love, to the point where I find myself using it as a benchmark for other things that’ve come along since. I forced it on fellow music fans — especially the Beatles fanatics — and I just couldn’t understand why nobody’d ever heard of these guys. The guys from Oasis were apparently fans, as was fellow Austinite Britt Daniel of Spoon; and still, nothing.
They never played here (that I saw, anyway, and I’ve been at least aware of 90% of the shows in this city for going on 15 years now, thanks to the shows list). I knew they’d released at least one earlier album, but I couldn’t ever dig up a copy (this was pre-Amazon/iTunes/whatever, remember). Cotton Mather became this weird, amazing, musical enigma.
Eventually, they broke up, although I didn’t realize it ’til I heard Peoria, the 2009 release by Austin band Future Clouds and Radar, and thought, “hey, that guy’s voice sounds weirdly familiar…” Turns out the band was Cotton Mather frontman Robert Harrison‘s new band, built out of the ashes of the sadly-overlooked previous one. And still, I wondered what the hell had happened.
Now, however, the reason for Kontiki‘s under-the-radar release and Cotton Mather’s subsequent, wholly undeserved obscurity, has come out. Apparently Copperrecords, the band’s label, only ever pressed a measly 2000 copies of the CD and sent it primarily to reviewers and the UK. What the…? No, seriously — the album really wasn’t ever “released” in any real way here in the States, which makes me feel like the Luckiest Guy in the Room for off-handedly snagging my copy when I had the chance.
Happily, this dreadful oversight will soon be rectified, with a re-release/release (however you want to think of it) of a “deluxe edition” of Kontiki this coming Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14th). The new version of the album will include not only the original 14-song CD but a second CD of leftovers and B-sides, like a 4-track acoustic version of the mindblowing “Camp Hill Rail Operator,” an electrified rendition of “Spin My Wheels,” and tracks that didn’t make the cut for the album like “Pine Box Builder” and “Little Star.”
All of which makes me over-the-moon happy, not only to hear that Harrison’s throwing some never-before-heard Cotton Mather out there but that the world will finally get to hear this amazing, amazing album. Congrats, y’all, albeit a full 15 years late…
If you’ve never heard the band, check ‘em right here:
(Pictured, from left to right: Whit Williams, Robert Harrison, & Dana Myzer. Photo by Bruce Dye.)