Newly reissued on vinyl on her own Gate imprint, A 480 was Coverdale's formal debut (originally issued on Constellation Tatsu back in 2014). When I first heard it a few years back, I believed it was not nearly as strong as her breakthrough 2017 EP Grafts, but I have since revised and reversed that opinion as A 480 has its own (very different) flashes of brilliance‚Äîthey just require a bit more focused listening to reveal themselves. This is both a unique album within Coverdale's discography and a unique album in general, approximating a slow-burning strain of loop-driven kosmische-style psychedelia assembled from ingeniously manipulated vocal loops.
The album's brief opener amusingly feels like a targeted assault on my personal sensibility, but the cheerily artificial textures and manic repetition of "A 480 are admittedly quite an effective illustration of the album's overarching vision. In essence, A 480 was crafted entirely from vocal pieces that have been "unpersonally sourced, downloaded, then disembodied, disfigured, and displaced over forty times." At various points throughout the album, those vocal loops approximate a human choir, but they far more often sound like a synth album from the '70s that has been chopped up by an Oval-esque mad genius. While both the album's conceptual basis and its source material are certainly intriguing, what truly matters is that the three pieces at the heart of the album all belong in the headphone album hall of fame (sadly still imaginary at this point). That incredible hot streak begins with the half-heavenly/half-futuristic epic "A 479," which sounds like it could have been a lost Tangerine Dream or Popul Vuh soundtrack for Solaris. That feat is then followed by the darkly hallucinatory "A 478" and the alternately playful and poignant otherworldliness of "A 477." Each piece offers its own bit of fiendishly clever compositional sleight of hand, but the thread uniting them all is Coverdale's virtuosic skill at maintaining a consistent sense of forward motion and structure in an endlessly evolving and oft-gorgeous sea of phase-shifting loops. In the passages where everything clicks fully into place, A 480 feels like an almost supernaturally rich and immersive tour de force of subtle rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic mastery. I cannot believe that this was a debut album.
Samples can be found here.