Modern Nature - How To Live - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Modern Nature - How To Live

by Mark Moody Rating:10 Release Date:2019-08-23
Modern Nature - How To Live
Modern Nature - How To Live

It didn’t take long for Jack Cooper and Will Young to deliver on the promise of May’s Nature EP.   In fact, Modern Nature’s four track primer proves the blueprint for the ground floor of the upcoming How To Live full-length.  Similar to the EP, the songs go from frenetic “krautfolk” to mournful meditations depending on the mix of instrumentation and tempo.  Cooper on guitar/vocals and Young on keyboards are joined by a top-notch clutch of performers including Rupert Gillett (cello), Aaron Neveu of Woods (drums), and Jeff Tobias of Sunwatcher (saxophone). 

Starting with nothing but a steady organ note that is quickly joined by Gillet’s somber pull of the bow, the opening ‘Bloom’ is befitting its title like an ode to a slowly opening moonflower.  The gravity of the instrumental’s tone recalls The Dirty Three’s Ocean Songs and commands the listener’s attention that this is a “serious” record.  Perhaps not always serious in tone, but one where great thought and precision went into its making.  The quieter moments like the opener hold great power.  The Nature EP’s ‘Flats’ directly begets the lovely ‘Turbulence’.  The morning haze of the song again pairs Young and Gillet, but Cooper adds vocals and guitar that blend seamlessly into the mix.  Cooper’s protestation that “these days rip apart at the seams” is delivered into a blissfully narcotic melody.

Though Cooper sings on every song but the opener, there is a calculated genius at work as to when instruments join in or fade out.  Since Neveu is not featured on every track, his presence is felt when he does appear.  First coming in on the most involved track on the album, ‘Footsteps’ takes its cue from the latter half of the EP’s ‘Supernature’.  Neveu’s perfectly paced drumming is met head-on later in the song by Tobias’ strafing sax work.  Other energetic tracks range from the carried-over ‘Nature’, with Cooper’s blistering solo cutting across the steady backbeat, to the more mystically tinged ‘Peradam’, that evokes an air of exoticism when Tobias’ sax floats in.

The two pinnacles of How To Live’s interlocked instrumentation come to bear mid-album.  Both devastatingly gorgeous works, ‘Criminals’ appears first.  Neveu never breaks stride while Young creates a caressing wave of sound that Cooper nearly whispers his vocals over.  The kaleidoscopic burst of keys and drums in the chorus create the basis for Cooper’s command to transcend from manmade confines.  The song takes flight in these moments in line with its lyrical concerns.  Stripped down further, the downbeat ‘Nightmares’ takes a hypnotic cue from Philip Glass’ repetitive motifs as Young cycles through a handful of modulated notes.  The ever-expanding symmetry of the song conjures up images of a screen full of disembodied origami fortune tellers:  opening, closing, up, left, down, right, repeat.  Tobias’ subtly worked sax mimics Cooper’s vocals and a resignation to “Surrender, we can never break the motion” cements the brilliance of the approach. 

Coming from different corners of the musical spectrum, these masters of their craft meld their skills as the recipe calls for.  Given the longer running time of an album, the group can patiently put a pinch of this here and a dash of that there.  All underpinned by a choice of chassis: Young’s bed of synths or Neveu’s drumming and sometimes both.  With all of the talent on display, you could fear that the supergroup tendency to overdo it could creep in, but Modern Nature’s power often lies in its show of restraint.  How To Live is sculpted with a master artisan’s hand and innate knowledge, it’s more about what is taken away that reveals the masterpiece that’s left behind.  A trance-inducing thing of beauty that organically changes course in subtle shifts that pull you ever into its mix.

                         

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