Review by Steph Chad

March 30, 2016 – Jon Kohen – Curse the Darkness, or Create a Light


Singer and songwriter Jon Kohen, based out of Lowell MA, just released a new EP entitled Curse the Darkness, or Create a Light. The highly anticipated collaboration with the Lowell String Quartet does not disappoint, adding a new voice and emotion to Kohen’s already great works. The EP features three tracks, two originals that were first released on The Heart of the Machine in 2014, and a cover. The addition of strings to Kohen’s beautifully soft spoken vocals and guitar reimagines his original works, to create a wonderful collection of beautifully emotional songs.

Curse the Darkness, or Create a Light opens with “A LIght”, originally released on The Heart of the Machine (2014). The updated version of the track begins with light strings and finger picked guitar before the entry of Kohen’s vocals. As the song progresses the strings section crescendos gradually until it swells after the exit of the vocals. The strings then drop out, allowing Kohen’s vocals to shine. The addition of strings to this track enhances the hopeful tone that is present in the original release. The balance between strings and vocals allows for audible dynamic changes throughout the track, further adding to the hopeful sound.

The second track on the EP is a cover of “Between the Bars” by Elliott Smith. Opening with strummed guitar and plucked strings this cover strongly differentiates itself from the original song while maintaining the integrity of the piece. The plucked strings and guitar continue underneath soft vocals, working together to build the mood of the track before increasing dynamically at the chorus. Bowed strings continue throughout the remainder of the piece underneath Kohen’s vocals and guitar. With the combination of guitar, vocals, and gorgeous performance from the strings section, this track is everything a cover is expected to be. It is a new take on a classic song that produces a sound the listener will not soon forget.

Closing the EP is a track entitled “Dusk”, another track being revisited from The Heart of the Machine (2014). The track is very similar to the original, opening with plucked guitar and soft vocals. It is when the strings section enters, filling the space of the electronic voice present in the original, that the song blooms. At the start of the track the strings are very subtle, but quickly add a great deal to the piece. Kohen’s vocals throughout the track emanate emotion while remaining soft and soothing alongside the strings. The addition of the strings does not take away from any of the works on the album, but simply adds a new voice that allows Kohen to explore and enter a new territory dynamically and emotionally. Curse the Darkness, or Create a Light is a thoughtful reimagination of Kohen’s prior works with the addition of the Lowell String Quartet that will not leave fans disappointed.