Modern Nature: Island of Noise (Bella Union) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Modern Nature

Island of Noise

Bella Union

Dec 08, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Though Modern Nature’s Jack Cooper certainly has a musical history that pre-dates the release of his latest project’s Nature EP in 2019, a compelling arc of history and evolution can be traced over the past three years of his latest iteration’s existence. Originally billed as a partnership between Cooper and BEAK>’s Will Young, half of the musicians that appeared on Modern Nature’s debut, Young and Woods’ Aaron Neveu, are no longer on board, or at least not for the outfit’s high water mark to date, Island of Noise. No disrespect to Neveu, but Jim Wallis’ drum work is part and parcel to this album’s elevated state, while longer-term contributor, saxophonist Jeff Tobias, continues to work alongside Cooper as he further unfurls the Modern Nature blueprint.

Island of Noise is based loosely on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. And as heady as that might sound, the album is characterized by an organic unfolding that traces similarly to Modern Nature’s own path. Though looking back to the project’s first full-length album, How to Live, as wonderful as it was, Young’s hypnotic keyboards and the album’s Krautrock rhythms would feel somewhat out of place on Island of Noise’s less elaborate footings. (Ironically, Cooper himself plays organ on the companion instrumental version of the album, Island of Silence). Here, Wallis’ drums, John Edward’s bass, and Cooper’s own guitar work provide a foundation (or island if you will), where Cooper’s hushed vocals, and a myriad of horns and strings run rampant or in harmony with each other over the album’s course.

Opening with a brief instrumental prelude (“Tempest”), in which Edwards’ bass portends of dramatics to come, Island of Noise is, for the most part, a tranquil setting in spite of the Shakespearean magic that’s afoot. “Dunes” is where we first hear Wallis’ drums kick in and it provides for a celebratory moment with a chance for, as Cooper puts it, “a reset, a new beginning.” The following “Performance” and later “Masque” are standout tracks on an album without a single misstep. Both songs are characterized by Wallis’ showcase moments, with Cooper’s guitar line on the former evidencing an unforeseen funky playfulness. But “Performance” always comes back to Wallis’ rock steady thump. “Masque” also has a joyous feel, with Tobias’ and Evan Parker’s saxes swirling high above the song’s rhythms, and Cooper’s repeated “how sweet the sound,” invoking a hopefulness that has been globally absent the past few years. The concluding track, “Build,” ends in a tangle of horns and strings reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” as the only nod to Cooper’s more psychedelic days.

Starting from an elevated place, not yet three years ago, Cooper’s Modern Nature hits its career to date peak on the masterful Island of Noise. For anyone that was a fan earlier this year of the contemplative Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders’ collaboration of Promises, Island of Noise hits a similar compositional note but brings a broader palette to bear. Like Shakespeare’s Prospero, Cooper has honed a mastery of knowing which ingredients to add to the mix at just the right moment to claim his prize. And having made so much ground in a few short years, where Cooper goes next will continue to provide an air of anticipation and, most of all, enchantment. (Note: Island of Noise is initially releasing in physical form only via a box set from Bella Union’s website. The set includes the album, an instrumental only companion album, as well as a book of writings and illustrations inspired by the piece). (www.modernnature.band)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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