Boomkat Product Review:
Veteran guitarist, field recordist and latter-day ambient doyen Mike Cooper returns to Room40 with this soundtrack to an otherwise silent film, based on Fred Hardy's book "The Religious Culture of India". As usual, it's brilliantly unpredictable stuff from minute to minute, a cut-n-paste wonder that bends from field recording to jazz and oceanic electronics.
Cooper's output is exceptional simply because of the 79-year-old musician's relentless passion for exploration. While most artists seem happy to rest on their laurels, Cooper still sounds as interested in sonic journeying as he was decades ago. This latest set combines field recordings from Bali, Cambodia, Martinique, Vietnam, Crete, Sri Lanka and Australia with instrumental collaborations with some of his friends: sax players Tim Hill, and Geoff and Aaron Hawkins, vocalist and deep listening artist Viv Corringham, and Lox Coxhill and Roger Turner, Cooper's colleagues from improv trio The Recedents.
"I was moved to embrace how the digital, virtual, acoustic and natural worlds intersect in making this edition," Cooper admits in the accompanying text. Certainly, he sounds at ease with radically different techniques and technology here, guided by spirituality and history that's been informed by his travels, and assisted by friendship. The strongest moments are Cooper's textured field recordings that underpin most of the tracks, but digitally-enhanced guitar improvisations 'Tirta Gangga' offer a mushy emotional core that grounds the album.
Cooper's ensemble pieces, like the horn-led title track, are fourth world-adjacent oddities - no-place tropical jazz that exists on a different plane of existence than our own. It sounds as if Cooper is opening the door to a lavishly decorated private collection, and it's as personal a set of experimental sounds as you're likely to hear. So lovely.