Exploring Light in Darkness with Big City Cough

Our most important life moments happen at night. It is a time of freedom. A time for moments of self-reflection. For expressions of love, internal and external. For quiet meditation. Toronto-native Sean Beresford, aka Big City Cough, channeled this wide-ranging, labyrinthine feeling into an entire record of ambient guitar picking, and aptly called it Born at Night.

Beresford prides himself on being a night owl. He wrote all of the music for the record by moonlight, a time when he himself came into the world some decades ago. The release is open and expansive, not bound by structure yet it explores many different rhythms, sometimes several at once. Beresford cites Brian Eno as an influence, and it seems obvious that much of the cues can be traced back to Ambient 1, or even Neroli; Big City Cough takes advantage of a stream-of-consciousness structure and navigates the atmosphere using guitars and other stringed instruments.

When I listen to Born at Night, I like to imagine it as a continuous story. The opening track and first single from the project, “Before This There Was Everything,” is a rolling Americana tune that feels lit up, like streetlamps that blink on as the sun is still setting. Only when we reach about halfway through the track do we realize that it isn’t meant to have a punctuated end. More of the ominous ambient work on the record feels isolating, just as the feeling of loneliness can feel so much more pronounced when everyone is asleep. “Moon Corner” is the perfect blend of these two angles; we begin with joyous harmonies between acoustic and steel guitars, but they gracefully fade into noise after about a minute. Our thoughts become disheveled, remembering the time when we felt happy but acknowledging that such a time has passed. That is, until we get abruptly launched back into the melodies from earlier. Once you reach the end of the record, as the call of a train passes from ear to ear, a feeling solidifies. A feeling of comfort in the past as well as the unknown. 

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