It seems that Modern Nature has taken the idea of the album as artpiece and run with it this year, slashing back at a trend away from the physical with an album only available as a boxed set. The set includes a book that allows ten visual artists to interpret the songs and a second disc of mono instrumentals compiled from hours of improvisation and alternate takes. If you’re in the UK, the band has also been screening an accompanying film as well. While the trappings around the album are nothing short of impressive, Island of Noise doesn’t hide behind artifice in any way. The album is the band’s most accomplished to date, springing forward from their mix of motorik influences, psychedelic folk, and overcast indie to envelop British free music, jazz, and German progressive.
The album, at its core, comes from a very similar place as Jack’s first under the Modern Love name — churning melancholy indie into more expansive corners. But where How To Live was just beginning to dip its feet into shades of Pentagle, Emtidi, and Witthuser & Westrupp, now the band has refined their sound and made those early shades of experiment come to life by loosening the boundaries and trusting the assembled players to imbue the record with deeply furrowed shading through improvisation. As Cooper’s use of British experimental players Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins helps push the album towards the precipice, the core players pull them back with equal skill. Particularly John Edwards’ bass and Jim Wallis’ drums, which drive the record through its turbulence and peace like a rudder. Parker and Tobias’ saxes lacerate the speakers while violinist Alison Cotton uses her instrument to growl rather than soothe.
Cooper has lashed the album to The Tempest as a template, making the lonesome text a lodestone for his sound, focusing on the quote, “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises.” Lashing his fictional island with torments that feel overwhelming at times, imagining bouts of erosion and bloom that push through the songs, transcending the mere pop record for something a bit more boundless and tectonic in nature. The emotional journey here, while envisioned as trials for the island, couple its themes of change, bewilderment, and turbulence to the life of the listener with out stumbling on its context. Island of Noise is easily the band’s best and, quite honestly, one of the year’s most engrossing listens.
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