Following up the eponymous 12” that established Jack Cooper’s new band earlier this year, Modern Nature cements their status with their debut LP, How To Live. The record’s been touted as a cross-section of where the country meets the city – folk forms grafted to a skeleton of motorik pulses and ripples of jazz skronk. There’s also a heavy permeation of cosmic waves that find their way into Modern Nature’s DNA. The band, and Cooper, are careful not to pack to much into one particular song, though. This is a progression, a journey from chaos to meditative ease (relatively speaking). The fluctuations happen organically, in waves and cycles throughout the album. Opening with the organic mew of cello strings, the album massages the darkness that UK-centric folk groups like Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and Incredible String Band carried with them into the crevices of propulsive pop.
Cooper paired up with Will Young (BEAK>, Moon Gangs) for this album and he’s given the songs the wash of rhythm that sneaks in through the fog of folk. Young adds rusted tin atmospheres, the rumble of rails, and the bustle of cityscapes to each song. When the urban life decays and fades, Young helps harness the brokenness and isolation of life change. The band’s namesake song might be their most pop performance, a bubbly and bittersweet hook to hang the album on, but it surrounded by more scarred samples. The haunted “Oracle” is gaunt and unsure. “Nightmares” is, in contrast to its title, surprisingly serene and reassuring, a break through the dark into dawn, but it also shies away from the light.
Its easy to trace back pieces of Modern Nature to previous Cooper-led bands. The pulses found their way into Mazes’ “Skulking” and “Salford” rise up here, and the melancholy and hope that drove Ultimate Painting holds strong as a centerpiece of the new group. Modern Nature finds its brilliance in balance. The essence of the album hangs over crowds like collective breath in cold air – one with the ether while the city moves below. The album has the kind of feeling of a passenger locked into thoughts so deep they forget to disembark the train until it hits the last destination and as we and they stumble out into the cold sun of spring there lies the the ocean, lappping listlessly, but still sparkling with the cold light of morning. This is an album about forgotten firmaments, and changing centers. Its an album ever in transition and we’re all just trying to hold on, or let go, whichever seems most appropriate.
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