Mike Cooper - Raft
It’s hard to reconcile English guitarist, composer and sound sculptor Mike Cooper’s latest recordings over the last 10 years. Now 75 years young, Cooper has consistently been making music since the late 60’s when he was navigating the competitive and swollen UK folk scene. But that’s not what is difficult to process about Cooper. It’s his sheer experimentalism, the clear boundary blurring, the force and the steadfast determination of his adventurous mind. Go ahead and pull up some samples of his early folk LP for Pye or his early 70’s strong, yet not quite mind-blowing acid folk LPs for Dawn (since reissued by Paradise of Bachelors). Now snap forward to some of his recent records like the blissed-out Hawaiian ambient-noise beauty of Rayon Hula, the field recordings and abstract folk of Fratello Mare and the spacious and psychedelic freak-folk of his collaboration with Steve Gunn for the FRKWYS Series, Cantos De Lisboa. Mike Cooper’s trajectory is nonsensical but never mind that. Cooper is pushing and at his age, it is an inspiration. (For a long history and great overview of Cooper’s history, definitely check out Byron Coley’s piece for Forced Exposure here).
This couldn’t be more true on his newest record for Room40, Raft. The concept for his latest work was to explore the seaworthy travellers who took to the water in rafts with each piece titled after actual routes these men took. Cooper has been intensely influenced by music of the pacific islands and that remains the case here with comparisons to be made to Loren Connors for the fragmented, yet musical guitar-work on display. The aquatic beauty Cooper conjures perfectly balances with the stoic drones and white-light din lurking beneath his purposeful, but rambling steel guitar.
Beneath the electro-acoustic wash and drifting abstractions, Cooper is composing for the drifters and the lonesome heroes who not only enjoy solitude, but thrive in it. Raft plays like a travelogue for these deserted champions yet, it can enchant all with its warm but uneasy glow. Regardless, now is the time to dive into the work of Mike Cooper. At his late age, he’s certainly galvanized and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Set forth with Raft. (Dom)
Check out a track here.