Frank Kruse never saw himself being the head of a record label. He definitely wouldn’t call himself one now if you asked him in fact, even if that’s technically the role he’s carved out for himself at Cosmic Coffin. Frank had been recording and releasing music in some fashion his whole life. Through the nineties and early aughts he camped up in Melbourne making a name for himself with his visual art while recording music throughout under the name Frankie Death. He’d make zines and demos and never had any issues getting his work into local music stores. As the years went on however the stores started to close down. As all music slowly migrated online, Frank followed suit as he nomadically moved about Australia. He made friends with musicians everywhere he went all the while taking in every nook and cranny of his homeland, including a decade long stint driving a van and a bus about the continent. The bus has since broken down however and Frank has been settled for the better part of two years, giving him ample time to spotlight the friends he made along the way. Cosmic Coffin is the label/loose collective/distribution network for Frank and his DIY recording, rock and rolling gang of misfits. They’ve put out a decent number of albums on Bandcamp, all from home-recording Aussies Frank met on his journey.
As a means of broadening Cosmic Coffin’s horizons further past Australia Frank put together the label’s first compilation album which dropped earlier this month, aptly titled Cosmic Coffin Compilation Vol 1. Frank described this mix as part sampler and part compilation, with the “sampler” referring to tracks from Cosmic Coffin-adjacent Australian artists, and the “compilation” meaning tracks from likeminded American artists who were kind enough to contribute a jam they had been working on. They come from all over both location and genre wise and yet the compilation still makes for a cohesive listen all the way through. The album has a decidedly relaxed vibe with none of the tracks being nearly as intense or freaky as artist Beeple’s bloodied chimera-Pikachu holding a pig album cover may lead one to expect, and there are highlights all over the musical spectrum. Electronic musician Mike Fridmann who records under KWKA contributed a fantastic electronic ditty called 10-Story Crystal all the way from Fredonia, NY, which is half way between Buffalo, NY, and Eerie, PA, and a few hundred universes away from Australia. Zak Mering, Weyes Blood’s brother who records under the name Raw Thrills, sent in a fantastic and funky instrumental rendition of Sexual Healing that feels like it was taken from Pee Wee Herman’s elevator playlist (in a good way, we stan Paul Rubens here and I feel like he would have quite an eclectic elevator mix). They were even able to get a contribution from Toni Oswald of all people. The former muse of and partner to RHCP’s John Frusciante has been recording with her current partner, musician Max Davies, as of late and the two close things off strong with Written in Water, whose sinister guitar track is buoyed by the pleasant vocals from Oswald and Davies.
While the relatively familiar American faces helped bring me into the compilation, I found it was the more esoteric Australian acts who keep me coming back. Jazz Ciggie opens up the comp with a breathy, breezy, and calming instrumental track that floats you right into the rhythm of the mix. Little did I know that Jazz Ciggie was the lighter side of Matti Harrod, who was the drummer in seminal Melbourne punk-rock band Beanflipper. Geoff Towner contributed a tender song about writing down your ideas before you forget them or worse regret them called Old Prick Losin’ His Marbles Blues, and it made perfect sense to find out that someone writing such meta songs was a professional music critic in a past life. The further you go down the mix the more it seems like Frank only sought out musicians who had a story at least as interesting as his own. Simon Marrocco was in the 80’s Melbourne ska band The Mood before taking a thirty-year recording hiatus to pursue a life as a yoga instructor. In his early-sixties he got the itch to record again, this time with a more electronic bent under the moniker Samskara Radio, and paired up with Australian rapper MC Mooks, who is several decades his junior, for a track that feels like a down under Futsal Shuffle. It’s remarkable these two men are even aware of one another, let alone creating music together. And this track likely wouldn’t have been possible if the man in the van didn’t pack up his bags and travel on up to their hometowns to introduce himself. I think the best example of this spirit has to be the winding and groovy instrumental track Through Prisms of Shadows. The track is by Thetamychos, the outfit of talented multi-instrumentalist Bill O’Brien. Bill is living as a relative hermit out on Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia, and apparently improvised the jazz-metal track and recorded in the moment shortly after Frank had asked for his involvement. Bill released his DIY recorded debut album last year on Cosmic Coffin Records and plans on releasing a music video to accompany this track later in the year.
When Frank told me that he did not want to be famous, I knew he was talking to the right blog. What he hoped for was that the music reach interested ears that wouldn’t have heard it otherwise, whether that be today on Bandcamp or someone picking up the CD in a garage sale in a decade down the road. He has seen the music business change a hundred times in his life and has every right to be cynical about where things are in our present day. The reign of streaming has lead to playlist placement being among the most important ways for an upcoming artist to get exposed. That has forced musicians to fit the whims of whatever streams well, which often means making sure to not stand out too much. Here Frank has been able to assemble a collage of different tracks that make for a uniquely funky mix. The songs are as varied and interesting as the stories that created them, whether you get the chance to hear it today, or tomorrow, or a hundred years down the road.