When the light splits into colours…

I haven’t forgotten that I rashly promised a post about “fifties punk” a few weeks ago (it is a thing, I assure you…) but it’s… uh… not quite ready. It is coming…

But in the meantime, maybe we should try something a little more… modern.


I’ve gone out and bought a new-new record – you know… it came out this year (I know!)

Modern Nature

I saw Jack Cooper (for it is he) a while back when he was co-fronting Ultimate Painting, and bought both their subsequent albums. Jolly good they were too, although Cooper now claims it was all a little too easy (he only wrote half the songs). I also bought the first Modern Nature record which I also enjoyed.

But this one’s a step up, mind.

The new record, Bella Union’s Island of Noise, starts with the distinctive circular warblings of the great Evan Parker (a striking and marvellous sound in its own right) and moves on apace, powered throughout by Cooper’s progressive guitar sound and some rich, lush strings and bass. It’s beautiful many-textured stuff that easily and lightly bears repeated listens.

Amongst it all, I’m very keen on Cooper’s light, brittle, barely-coping vocals which contribute to and set the tone for the gossamer thin impression of these recordings. There were plans for an instrumental sister-disk to this called “Island of Silence” but I’m not sure it got a very wide release, which is a shame…

There’s a lovely “visualiser” of “Performances” available from the record which will serve as a more than adequate appetiser for the whole sumptuous affair:

I probably shouldn’t do this, but the whole record is on YouTube as some sort of official film soundtrack, here

Gorgeous as it all is, the more I listen to the record, the more I am impressed by the quivering services of Evan Parker. His talents surely don’t come cheaply, (particularly if you pay him piece-rate – he manages roughly 12 notes to everyone else’s one or two) but whatever they paid him, it wasn’t enough. He adds a rich, shimmering quality to Cooper’s already elusive arrangements that in places raise the sound to different, unexplored places. Cooper has also, rather brilliantly, taken some of Parker’s characteristic space – boldly faltering and hesitating, pausing quizzically between lines. It’s really effective.

I couldn’t possibly explain or pass sensible comment on Parker’s skills or technique (his Wikipedia page reads like sections of Finnegan’s Wake – you’ll be enlightened to know, for example, that he uses “multi-phonics or harmonics in combination with circular breathing, polyrhythmic fingering and split tonguing”) but he is of course something of a seminal figure in a modern jazz world that I can never hope to penetrate.

But as with a lot of these things, if you close your eyes and forget whether it matters or not, it’s all rather beautiful and satisfyingly strange…

(By the way, if you’re impressed that he gets through all 13 minutes of what is ominously called “Solo Part 1” without apparently drawing breath, read the wiki-entry on circular breathing – the current world record, held by Femi Kuti, is almost four times longer…)

We’ve strayed into other worlds and universes from the fifties rockabilly I was originally thinking about this morning, but once you stop and breathe in the rarefied air, it’ll not surprise you to know that among Parker’s other collaborators you’ll find Jah Wobble, Charlie Watts Scott Walker and of course, another great barely-coping vocalist, the great Robert Wyatt:

And this will be hard to top:

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