Alice Cohen, “Backwards”

Liz Pelly

“Sometimes you don’t know where to go,” concludes Alice Cohen near the end of “Backwards,” the prismatic pop song that opens her next full-length record, Into The Grey Salons. In the song’s video, she explores some options though, an elaborate sensory-overload trip through various planets where she tries on different identities along the way. Directed by Micki Pellerano and filmed at Brooklyn’s Spectrum, there’s smoke and sequins, chains and gold dresses and muscle men. “Micki created this kabbalistic elevator where I go to different planets,” Cohen explains. “Venus, Mars, Neptune, Mercury. I end up on the Sun. The beginning scene is this sort of opium den where I leave my body.”

Cohen’s decades-long multi-genre musical career started when she played in a disco cover band in the 70s; her new album is a full embrace of those roots, applied through the experimental, multi-faceted touch of her collage and video work. Out via Olde English Spelling Bee on September 18, Into The Grey Salons was largely inspired by a department store near Cohen’s childhood home in Philadelphia, and deals in themes of materialism, consumption, escapism, and our dueling senses of selves. “Backwards” is an apt introduction, her layers of self-harmonizing vocals playing out like a space-age choir of criss-crossing voices meditating on the “Church of Holy Desires.”

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