By Charlie Weinmann, Arts Editor
Expressing a tasteful blend of soft rock, synth pop, folk and psychedelic, Chris Cote’s Almanac Mountain project began in 2010 with the release of the When In Nature EP.
Originally, Almanac Mountain was centered on Cote’s idea of combining an appreciation for nature and the juxtaposition of humanity. He aimed to personify nature with elements of human thought and feeling. Today Cote’s writing style focuses more on interpersonal relationships while maintaining an echo of his naturalistic premises.
Cote, 41, resides in Exeter, New Hampshire where he runs a commercial photography studio and has been a working piece of the Seacoast music scene.
Cote began writing music in high school, was inspired by a collection of electronic music gear a teacher of his had stored in a closet, and so he signed up for the school’s electronic music class.
Cote is modest in describing his current home recording set up. In the past he has recorded all of the instruments himself, and mixes everything as well.
“I’m kinda a hermit,” he says.
Although now Cote says he is fortunate to be working with a “really great band.”
The Red Door in Portsmouth and The Dover Brick House are two routine stops when Cote chooses to play out.
“I don’t chase after that many gigs as I probably ought to,” he said. “The drive is for the most part writing and recording. I do enjoy playing live, but that initial thing to get up in front of people and put the spotlight on myself is really not a big driving force.”
The four album covers Cote has displayed on his Bandcamp page are visually intriguing. Most notable is When In Nature. The cover features an old photograph of a man from the early 1900s at Niagara Falls. According to Cote, the falls had frozen completely during a cold winter, and Cote had acquired this photograph someone took of it.
“The guy standing there watching … black against this white … I just inverted the image which gave it this other worldly look,” Cote said. “I had been recording psychedelic sounds at the time, so it seemed appropriate with the whole psychedelic nature of the music.”
His album, “Is In Like With You”, is meant to take on the image of a 1920s valentine card. A friend of Cote’s created the design.
Having been a part of the local scene for some time, Cote holds the opinion that while the Seacoast scene is unique and has its perks, things could certainly be better.
“There are a lot of good musicians around here that are eager to work with you,” he said. “There are some good venues, but one of the bad things is there really aren’t enough. It’s a little bit adrift.”
Cote feels that a successful music scene begins with a real listener-based relationship with the artists. He says there needs to be a group of people that are responding to a certain sound.
“Around here people aren’t really sure what the thing is we should latch onto,” he said. “I don’t know that there is a huge support group of reliable, always- there audience willing to scoop it up.”
Cote remembers a time during his youth when people living in the Seacoast were actively talking about the scene. He notes that a lot of artists can’t afford to live in Portsmouth, therefore decreasing the amount of talent made readily available.
“Places like The Press Room are booking national bands and trying to move away from the connected seacoast music scene, which is great, but we need to figure out how to get back a little bit of that insular music scene,” Cote said.
It isn’t necessarily easy for Cote to identify his sound. With a background in the realm of the singer-songwriter, he struggles to escape being constantly labeled as folk or acoustic.
“I try to make my arrangements denser and not so folky, but when the acoustic guitarist is front and center, you can’t really escape that,” Cote said. “There are a lot of different styles that I take on, and I do enjoy that. At the heart of it, my favorite part is producing and arranging. When the song is done, it’s a relief, and I can do the fun stuff.”
Establishing a more focused sound is actually what Cote aspires to accomplish. He wants to start releasing one song at a time, rather than record an entire LP at once. Revisiting his older themes of humanity and nature is something he would like to meditate on.
In terms of a long-term goal, Cote wants to get more people listening.
“My last two albums were four years apart,” he says. “Write a song, get it out there.”