Based in London, Cosmo Sheldrake wears many hats. He’s a unique, skilled, talented soul and his music is enchanting to listen to and also just fun! I still don’t know all the words to “The Moss”, which has been out for over 8 years now. But when it comes on, I smile and begin trying to sing along with him.
My favorite song so far? “Come Along”…
He’s known as – a master looper, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and improvisationist. He collects and experiments with musical instruments of all kinds and incorporates field recordings of natural sounds to both inspire and refresh his music. I have several of his songs on my good vibes playlist and I wanted to share him with you!
PERSONAL/ PROFESSIONAL HISTORY
Sheldrake grew up surrounded by both music and a deep understanding and fascination with the natural world. His father, Rupert Sheldrake, is a biologist who comes from a long line of church organists. His mother, Jill Purce, whose own mother was a concert pianist, inspired a revival of group chant, teaches Mongolian overtone chanting, and spent four years working with the avant-garde German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. So you can see where his unconventional style of music was born from.
“My mother had a had a big record collection of early ethnographic recordings,” he recalls. “One of my early memories is going to a world music conference and hearing Tuvan throat singing, then listening to flamenco and Georgian choirs. I was mesmerised by the whole thing.”
By age 4, he was playing classical piano using the Suzuki method – it teaches music as if it were a language. By age 7, he tried on New Orleans-style blues. As he aged up, he tried newer technology. By the time he was a teenager, he was programming drums and beats in Logic.
In 2013, he gave a TEDx talk entitled ‘Interspecies Collaboration’ during which he created a symphony of sounds featuring the sun and British birds in collaboration with his own vocal improvisation.
He released his first single “The Moss” in 2014, which was followed by the Pelicans We EP in 2015 (mastered by Mandy Parnell).
Just the lyrics take you on a trip, but the beat gets you into a great vibe altogether!
But have you heard the story of the rabbit in the moon, Or the cow that hopped the planets, while straddling a spoon, Or she, who leapt up mountains, while whistling up a tune, And swapped her songs with swallows, while riding on a broom…The Chorus of “The Moss” by Cosmo Sheldrake
He has composed music for film, theatre, including a series of Samuel Beckett, plays at The Young Vic.
He has also worked as a facilitator and a teacher running music workshops for young people in England, Canada, and the U.S.A.
In 2017, he composed the soundtrack for ‘Moving Art,’ a Netflix nature series in which filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg explores the beauty of oceans, forests, deserts, and flowers.
In April of 2018, his debut album, The much much how how and I was released. Sheldrake had taken three years to compose the music at home, then went to east London Soup Studios to work with live woodwind and brass players. Finally, the music made was mixed by Matthew Herbert.
“Come Along” is the record’s lead single and it’s the perfect example of the extraordinarily unique style this artist has with music.
“That song began when I decided to make the most preposterously over-the-top introduction that I could,” he explained. “I made this ridiculously grandiose beginning, and then it developed from there into the song as it is now. It was one of the first songs that I wrote for this record, so it’s always felt like a good place to start. It feels like the doorway into everything else.”Cosmo Sheldrake to TransgressiveRecords.com
Wake Up Calls, his second album was released in September of 2020.
STYLE AND INFLUENCE
Considering who his parents are, you can tell that his original fascinations with the natural world and music come from their influence. Throughout his career, Sheldrake has continued to be fascinated by sound collection and field recordings.
“I’ve never been able to answer when people ask me what kind of music I make,” he says. “Often just listening to the sound of a gale in Scotland, or sampling the sound of bats chewing, has given rise to a tune.”Cosmo Sheldrake
His debut album was written under the influence of a diverse group of musicians ranging from The Beatles & The Kinks to Moondog & Stravinsky. He has mentioned that a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and his study of anthropology at the University of Sussex as well as his longstanding interest in ethnomusicology also helped shape The much much how how and I.
His main claim to fame is the fact that he can be such a one-man band. He excels at improvisational sound production and looping. Here’s an example from a live improve in New York from 2016:
COLLABORATIONS & CONNECTIONS
Collaboration has always been part of Cosmo’s thing. He began his first band at age 16 – The Gentle Mystics – after working with singer Noemie Ducimetiere and rapper Elian Grey.
He composed music for a series of Samuel Beckett plays at the Young Vic and for Relax & Dream, a project which brought bringing soothing music and nature videos to children in hospitals and hospices.
He ran a community choir in Brighton, and he has worked as a facilitator, running music workshops in Europe and North America.
Cosmo has also toured internationally, both solo and with Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit, the Gentle Mystics, Mr. Jukes, and Sam Lee.
His song “Come Along” was featured in an advertisement for Apple’s iPhone XR in the US and UK. The song subsequently charted at number 39 on the US Digital Songs chart in 2019. The next year, his 2018 song “Birthday Suit” gained popularity on the video-sharing app TikTok the following year later in November, with the song becoming a trend on the app.
By the way, Sheldrake releases his music independently, through his own label, Tardigrade Records. He’s quite the wholesome creator, and you’d just need to follow his YoutTube or TikTok to be reminded of that fact. As a matter of fact, here’s a sample of his quirky fun that he shared all around in a cover of Diamonds & Gold by Tom Waits.
ORIGINAL SONGS or DISCOGRAPHY
- Pelicans We EP 2015
- The Much Much How How and I 2018
- Wake Up Calls 2020
- “The Moss/Solar” 2014
- “Orby/Prefusify” 2019
- “Nightingale Wake Up Calls” 2020
Continuing his very unique vibe of mixing the sounds of nature with music composition, Sheldrake played at Somerset House for World Ocean Day.
Cosmo has been performing LIVESTREAM concerts and limited seating events at several local London locations. The last was at Islington Assembly Hall. He usually posts reminders up on his Twitter about them.
The most recent video he has released ahead of this article is “Playing Places: Oceans” which is a collective of sounds he collected from the ocean from various sources and then composed with his instrumentation.
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