Posts Tagged ‘Bella Union’

Modern Nature – “Harvest”

Modern Nature rev up the release of their new EP with yet another taste from the ranks, this time featuring fellow RSTB fave Itasca (Kayla Cohen) on vocals. As with the bulk of their previous album, the track is built on a low-slung tension that seems to simmer and steam through the speakers. This time, though they build a symbiosis with Cohen turning a yearning folktale into a vibrating mass of sound that’s streaked with melancholy. The song has the feeling of staring into your reflection in a fogged up mirror — immersive, meditative, but obscured by a layer that distorts the truth. This is one of the most complete visions from the band, turning their haunted pop into an aching three-minutes of salvation. The EP is out June 5th.

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Modern Nature – “Flourish”

The current climate has produced a hundred heartbreaks, several of which include shuttered tours in the upcoming months. Modern Nature’s recent leg was included in the cull — bad news indeed. However some silver lining solace lays in the news that Jack Cooper’s (Mazes, Ultimate Painting) most recent resting place has a new EP on the way from Bella Union in the summer. The band releases the slinking, skulking cut “Flourish” this week and it’s an organic extension of what was built up on the recent How To Live. With a crouched countenance and a smoke-stained simmer, the song introduces the upcoming Annual as an inseparable companion piece to their most recent release. The sax of Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias provides a supple connective tissue to the song, with Cooper’s woolen delivery pushing away from the Krautrock cadence of the album and preceding LP a bit. The EP lands on June 5th. Keep an eye out.



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Modern Nature

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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Modern Nature – “Footsteps”

Jack Cooper’s dizzying new band Modern Nature has let slip a few listens to their upcoming eponymous LP and now they give a visual representation of the nervous energy that drives the band’s sound. The Jake McGowan directed video shows Cooper pacing around the city, backgrounds spinning, flipping, and blurring in disorienting fashion to the beat. While much of the album embraces a pastoral creep into Krautrock’s camp, “Footsteps” is pure motorik mayhem. The songs locks down into a Neu-nicked groove and slashes at the panic with stabs of sax from Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias. Fans of Coo[ers’ Mazes should find a bit to chew on here, but in general Modern Nature is a singularly engrossing entity from Cooper’s musical universe. I’ve said before, I’m sad Ultimate Painting had to go, but if Modern Nature is the result of the fallout, its not all ashes left behind. The record is out on Bella Union August 30th.



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Modern Nature – “Peradam”

Jack Cooper’s (Ultimate Painting, Mazes) new haunt Modern Nature announces an album to follow up their stellar 12” from earlier this year. First offering “Peradam” isn’t quite as rooted in the motorik mindset that held sway on “Nature,” but its still got rhythm on its mind and a sweeping sense of motion beneath the autumnal croon of Cooper and the soft scuttle of sax. How To Live is being billed as a halfway hideaway between Neu and Can’s German Progressive patter and the more lilting folk of Caravan. Honestly, I’m all in on the prog-folk permutations that Cooper’s tumbling through, and while this track has some fine charms, I have a feeling the key’s going to be locking the whole album together into a tapestry of propulsion and strum. The record employs some fine extended bench, with Cooper collaborating mainly with Will Young of BEAK> with contributions from Aaron Nevue (Woods) and Jeff obias (Sunwatchers). Check out the first video above and look out for the new LP August 23rd on Bella Union.



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Modern Nature

Following the unfortunate fallout from Ultimate Painting’s implosion, the band’s Jack Cooper heads inward, which is saying something. His previous outfit had a particular proclivity for introverted indie-pop that felt like it carved a distinct connection with each and every listener. While he’s shying away from the pop aspect of his writing, that core connection and folk formulation remains on Nature. The EP, built on the cavern coolness of purred vocals and bubbling cosmic grooves, gives his work a psychedelic tweak, but its the work of someone spiraling down the depths of the unconscious coil rather than exploring the etchings in the dayglo painted stars above. He’s assembled a crack team to pull off his new vision as well, pulling in members of Woods, Herbcraft, Sunwatchers, and Beak on these four engrossing tracks.

While the propulsion of the title track begs Neu-nerds to come out of the woodwork, the track is self-professed in its allusions to the more experimental bend of ’69 Fairport Convention (in particular “A Sailor’s Life”) and the trend of bucolic English psych-folk toward the creep of drone’s embrace becomes a touchstone for the album. The opening and closing tracks are different visions of the same oasis, with “Supernature” taking the listener much further into the catacombs of consciousness. Elsewhere Cooper explores the sun-licked peace of acoustic thrum on “Flats,” and throws in a cover of the perennially inspiring “Blackwaterside” folk-tale, skipping just Ren Faire aesthetics that lesser artist can cave to and finding the meditative beauty that Jansch and Denny brought to the traditional piece.

Cooper seems to admit that this EP came out of something beyond him, and whether it becomes the beginning of something longer term or just a watershed to tide him through the transition remains to be seen. I’m hoping that he continues down this road, though. The experimental folk badge looks good on him and should the band begin rotating in talent like those assembled so far, it could be a great new chapter in Cooper’s pop cannon.

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Modern Nature – “Supernature”

As I may have mentioned before, I was saddened when Ultimate Painting not only folded last year, but also pulled their final album from release. It was a masterful pop album that deserved light, even if its creators were sent splitting in two different, irreconcilable directions. All is not lost, however. While UP has been consigned to the land of wind and ghosts, the two creative forces behind the band are, in fact, inexhaustible hubs of musical fare. It would seem that Jack Cooper is already onto his newest venture, releasing three new tracks as Modern Nature.

With a mutable lineup, that here includes keyboardist Will Young, drummer Aaron Neveu (Woods), cellist Ruper Gillett, and saxophonist Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers), Cooper sets out to conquer a considerably more expansive end of the musical spectrum than he has dabbed in in the past. With a heavy investment in modal psych, the new EP embraces Cooper’s previous touches on psychedelic pop but drops through about six layers of mind fuzz further into the frosted ether for a sound that’s build on circular drones, sweat lodge sax hallucinations and a quasar-nudging foray into psychedelic chakra expansion. Its a surprising heel turn, but a welcome one nonetheless . Check the first track, which tops out around twelve minutes of cosmic float. The EP is out on Bella Union, March 22nd.

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Ultimate Painting – “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore”

Few records in the past couple of years hold up to the the bittersweet pang of Ultimate Painting’s last album, Dusk. It was a study in melancholy wrapped in appropriately lush production and marked by the brushstrokes of two of indie’s great new voices. The band now makes a jump from their home at Trouble in Mind to Bella Union and while the songwriting and production remains intimate and confessional, the tone takes a tip upward towards the light, as the album’s title, Up! might attest. “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore” is haunted by all the familiar ghosts of Ultimate Painting’s sound – wistful delivery, gently knotted guitars and a somber swoon that’s tempered just a tad with Cooper’s slight smile on the vocals. It’s a promise to keep expectations in check and be a bit selfish for self-preservation’s sake. For two musicians with busy schedule’s its probably a hard pill to swallow but it comes together nicely on this first single.

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Xylouris White

Prior to the release of Black Peak I had caught the duo of Jim White and George Xylouris a couple of times and each time they had the same effect of sucking the air out of the room; stone silent crowds pretty much in awe of the power and presentation of their works. The difference the second time was that the duo were playing pieces of Peak and in place of the mostly instrumental set, Xylouris let loose with his torrent of vocals, matching the intensity of his lute work, a feat that’s easier said than done. Though the secret, or not so secret weapon in the band still remains Jim White’s tumbling, craggy and entrancing percussive work. In the face of Xylouris’ booming voice and snaking strings, for the drums to steal away some of the awe, seems like a feat in its own right.

This album sees the band stepping further into their comfort as players together, having had a longstanding relationship that hearkens back to collaborations during White’s time in Dirty Three and even longer than that as friends. Dirty Three never seemed penned in by boundaries of style, and aside from those who might balk at the World Music inclinations that arise from the Greek language vocals, neither does Xylouris White. Those vocals do present a new focal point for the album but even stripped of the droning, swooping phrasing, the songs themselves seem more akin to Robbie Basho or Bert Jansch if they had spent time exploring their free jazz sides with someone like Chris Corsano or Paal Nilsson-Love on the sticks. Black Peak feels like it touches the intense lamplight intensity of Middle Eastern psych or raga, especially on the burning “Hey, Musicians.”

White’s been known to collaborate his whole career, spending time with PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, Smog and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. The Bonnie Prince even finds his way into the mix here as well, returning the favor with lonesome harmonies on the dark-skied “Erotokritos.” Though he’s often been a seamless piece of his collaborators’ albums, here White has found himself as out front and free as in his days with Dirty Three, pushing and pulling at Xylouris’ aesthetic like a motor that’s primed and humming. The pair bring out the best in each other and its clear that while they’re having a good time making the album, they’re also pushing to find a plateau that neither have reached previously, which considering the resumes of the players involved, is a tall, tall order. Ultimately, they do seem to have found their peak this time around.





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