Ah, this one is probably a long time coming, with Jack Cooper holding down time in quite a few RSTB favorites over the years (Mazes, Ultimate Painting, Modern Nature). The latter have a new album on the way and it’s pushing the scope of the psych-folk-jazz ensemble further than they’ve ever gone before. I nabbed Jack here for a look into what’s on his shelf of indispensables and overlooked classics and he’s come up with a great pick that gives a bit of insight into the boundaries that Modern Nature has been pushing against. Check out Jack’s take on British free improvisation group The Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s ’68 album Karyōbin and how it came into his life.
“My listening habits over the last ten years have been informed by a fascination with Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way,” notes Cooper. “My interest isn’t necessarily informed by the songs or musicianship; the atmosphere of the album, the timbre of the notes, the space and the tone are all important, but the element I crave is indefinable. It’s something I’ve heard throughout my listening life and it became apparent to me that this indefinable element was what I’d been drawn to all along. It had just taken me 30 years to realise.”
“Frustratingly, Davis himself never really repeated the qualities in the music that struck such a chord, so my quest for similar music took me down a variety of different paths, many of which began directly with the players involved; specifically Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter’s Moto Grosso Feio and the first couple of John McLaughlin LPs. There’s a similar atmosphere in passages of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock and some of Bill Orcutt’s recent solo music… but the element evaded me,” laments Jack.
“In Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue, the protagonists search for an object known as the ‘peradam’; an object revealed only to those who seek it. “The stone is so perfectly transparent and its index of refraction so close to that of air in spite of the crystal’s great density, that the inexperienced eye barely perceives it. But to any person who seeks it with sincerity and out of true need, it reveals itself by a brilliant sparkle like that of a dewdrop.”
“The indefinable element was my ‘peradam’.”
“My search eventually took me to increasingly more open music; American free jazz, European free improvisation and non-tonal music, until my friend James Oldham tipped me off to John Stevens’ Spontaneous Music Ensemble and their debut Karyōbin. Karyōbin strips away all the other elements and leaves just the alchemy. The music is spacious and atmospheric, with a pureness of emotion, a clearness of thought, that contradicts any notion music can be explained by theory.”
The music is populated by players and minds that went on to define free improvisation (Dave Holland also played on In A Silent Way), not least saxophonist Evan Parker. Whilst preparing to record our record Island Of Noise I contacted Parker through a mutual acquaintance, inquiring whether he would be interested in playing on the session. He replied, ‘I notice you have a song called “Peradam”‘ (from our debut ‘How To Live‘). ‘Count me in!’
This one truly marks as a Hidden Gem and as often is the case, it proves a bit hard to track down. As might be expected of a European free jazz LP from the ‘60s this didn’t go through a lot of pressings and originals of the LP are both scarce and gonna dent your wallet some. Thankfully there was a CD issue in 2017, but even that seems to be in a bit of a drought these days, though some discogs digging will set you right. Thankfully there’s a stream of the set on Youtube that should sate you in the meantime. The record might calibrate you for Modern Nature’s newest, Island of Noise, which lands tomorrow (more on that one shortly).
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