Modern Nature - Nature EP - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Modern Nature - Nature EP

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-22
Modern Nature - Nature EP
Modern Nature - Nature EP

Jack Cooper has been through several towns and a lot of bands in the past decade.  His two longest-lived acts as singer and guitarist were Mazes and Ultimate Painting.  The latter of which broke up in dramatic fashion about a year ago over an “irreconcilable breakdown” on the eve of the release of their fourth album Up!  That album ended up in the can and will hopefully find an avenue for release somewhere down the road.  In the meantime, Cooper is one-upping his ex-Ultimate Painting partner, James Hoare, by releasing his latest project’s EP two weeks prior to Hoare’s album with his once and future group, The Proper Ornaments.  Modern Nature’s four-song EP, Nature, shows Cooper exploring some new pathways away from his prior groups’ psychedelic leanings.

The four-song EP unfolds like the mirror image of the line drawing on its cover.  In fact, the first and fourth song are vastly different takes on the same tune, where really only the lyrics are retained.  While the middle two songs are gentler, folkier sounding with ‘Flats’ clearly inspired by the old Irish folk song ‘Blackwaterside’ that follows it.

First joining up with Beak>’s Will Young to form Modern Nature, the two were joined by cellist Rupert Gillet, drummer Aaron Neveu, and saxophonist Jeff Tobias.  If it sounds an odd set of instruments for a rock band, it all coalesces surprisingly well.  Though some very different styles are displayed, think Fairport Convention mixed with The Velvet Underground as you go further into the tracks. 

The opening ‘Nature’ (which is later blown out as ‘Supernature’), will sound most in sync with fans of Beak>’s music.  Clearly inspired by krautrock and propelled along by Neveu’s drumming, the song seems a cautionary tale as Cooper sings “modern nature, great failure”.  The song percolates along and is punctuated by an occasional burst of guitar as it goes.  For the EP’s close, ‘Supernature’ is a twelve (!) minute expansion of the opening track.  Given its trance-like raga, it never overstays its welcome.  A loop of strings, bells, and drum are laid over by cello and sax that dart and chase each other around to add to the song’s depth.  Though John Cale played viola during his time with the Velvet’s, it’s his spirit that permeates in the sawing cello strings that underpin the song.  ‘Supernature’ is ‘Venus In Furs’ without the S&M and hypnotically stretched out. 

These two variants sandwich the British Isles folkiness of ‘Flats’ and ‘Blackwaterside’.  The former takes its time rolling out with a simple cello line met by Tobias’ sax floating above.  With Cooper’s unadorned vocal coming in as well, it has a folky feel, but the instrumentation gives it more of a low-key modal jazz quality.  The cello and sax seemingly have no particular place to go but create a sonorous swell that conjures up the eddies of “scorched, blackened dust” that Cooper sings of.  The Irish folk ballad ‘Blackwaterside’ was brought to popularity by Bert Jansch, but this slower version is obviously inspired by Sandy Denny’s solo version outside of Fairport Convention.  It’s another patiently played out track where the tale of a jilted lover (because what else are folk ballads about unless there’s also a murder), is again buoyed along by cello and sax. 

Though Nature has a bit of schizophrenic feel given the different styles, it benefits from the approach given it shows the different paths this current group could explore.  The EP is clearly influenced by Cooper’s forebears, but more in tribute than anything else.  The combination of expertly played instrumentation and the interplay between them and the vocals are what make Nature exciting and fresh.  Hopefully, this combo can stick together long enough to create some more inspired music.   

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles