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MODERN NATURE

Modern Nature

Annual

    Released in August 2019, Modern Nature’s debut album - How to Live - crossed the urban and rural into each other. Plaintive cello strains melted into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drifted through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shone with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmospheric waves of Harmonia. The album was met with universal acclaim and featured in a number of publication’s ‘Best Of 2019’ lists. As the group took the album out on the road, Modern Nature became something even more expansive. “It feels like there's scope and room to grow. I want the group to feel fluid and that whoever's playing with us can express themselves and interpret what they think this music is” says bandleader Jack Cooper.

    Their new mini-album Annual, recorded in December 2019 at Gizzard Studio in London, is another step towards something more liberated and a world away from the sound of Jack Cooper's previous bands. Will Young sits this one out, concentrating on his work with Beak, but How To Live collaborator Jeff Tobias takes a more central role, alongside percussionist Jim Wallis.

    Jack explains how 'Annual' came about:
    “Towards the end of 2018, I began filling a new diary with words, observations from walks, descriptions of events, thoughts...free associative streams of just... stuff. Reading back, as the year progressed from winter to spring, the tone of the diary seemed to change as well... optimism crept in, brightness and then things began to dip as autumn approached... warmth, isolation again and into winter. I split the diary into four seasons and used them as the template for the four main songs. The shorter instrumental songs on the record are meant to signify specific events and transitions from one season to the next. I figured it wouldn't be a very long record, but to me it stands up next to 'How To Live' in every way.”

    ‘Annual’ opens with ‘Dawn’ which brings to mind the peace and space of Miles Davis' ‘In A Silent Way’; it rises from nothing like shoots reaching for the light. “I wanted Dawn to feel like the moment you realise spring is coming, when you notice blossom on the trees or nights getting lighter. On lead track ‘Flourish’, it's clear Modern Nature have moved on from the first album; as muted percussion and double-bass stirs behind Cooper's Slint-like ambling guitar; the chorus soars into a collaged crescendo. “Flourish is like when my part of the world coming to life. I live on the edge of London between Leytonstone and Epping Forest, so the signs of spring are very apparent round here - flowers, light, people talking in their gardens. Mayday started as an outro to Flourish or ‘Spring’ as it was titled originally. The idea was a segueway into the summer section to represent the sort of collective excitement a city gets once it realises summer is here."

    The summer of Jack's diary inspired 'Halo'. “Wanstead Flats where I live, change a lot in the summer; a haze descends on them instead of the spring mist and the city's proximity is more apparent. Blue bags of empty cans and scorched grass from out of control barbeques.” Arnulf Lindner on double-bass recalls the playing of Danny Thompson with Jeff Tobias' wonderfully lyrical saxophone referencing Pharoah Sanders. On ‘Harvest’ Jack takes a backseat with Kayla Cohen of Itasca singing. “All these songs are in the same key but the melody was above my range. I'd been playing the new Itasca record all the time and just reached out. The economy with which she sings is perfect.”

    “The intention with the record was for it to feel like a circle, so Wynter reflects the opening. I guess having to get up and flip the record destroys the illusion so it's a rare occasion where listening with the ability to just loop the album into another year is closer to our intention.”

    ‘Annual’ then acts both like a companion piece to the band’s ‘How To Live’ debut but also a pointer to the paths ahead. Cooper has already started work on the next album, his speed of output an indication of the excitement and creativity that surrounds the project. Who will be involved and what the touchstones might be are yet to be firmly established but then who would have it any other way with this most fascinatingly free-flowing and mutable of groups? 


    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Mustard coloured vinyl.

    The city and the country both have distinct, vibrant energies - but there’s something happening in between, too. As factories give way to fields, and highways drift into gravelly roads, the friction can be palpable, the aura electric. The lines between city and country were on Jack Cooper’s mind when he named his new band Modern Nature. He took the phrase from the diaries of filmmaker Derek Jarman, written on the coast of Kent in his Dungeness cottage. Visiting Jarman’s home, Cooper was struck by what he calls a “weird mix of urban and rural” - such as the way a nuclear power station sits next to open grasslands.

    On Modern Nature’s debut album, ‘How To Live’, urban and rural cross into each other. Plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle between the expansive motorik of Can, the Canterbury progressiveness of Caravan and the burgeoning experimentalism of Talk Talk’s ‘Colour Of Spring’.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    says: Having penned a succession of hazy, indie-rock affairs, Jack Cooper (formerly of Manchester's own Trof fame) breaks out a beautiful folky wanderer, heavy on reverb and drifting guitar ambience, but maintaining the melodic leaning that has earned him so many delighted fans. This is beautiful work, and possibly my favourite of his considerable output.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Green vinyl LP with digital download code.

    The Charlatans

    Modern Nature

      Following the death of drummer Jon Brookes last year, The Charlatans regrouped and set to work on their 12th album. As always, they’ve drawn on the past as well as the present to create their musical melting pot. “Talking In Tones” and “In The Tall Grass” have an early morning post-rave melancholy, there’s Mayfield-esque soul in “Keep Enough”, “Emilie” and “Come Home Baby” are pure pop, and “So Oh” with its sun dappled West Coast vibes is an absolute gem. The anthemic “Let The Good Times Be Never Ending” is prime Charlatans with wah-wah guitars and swirling Hammond keys over driving bass lines and skittering drums. And throughout it all, Tim’s vocals are sublime. Yes, there is melancholy here, but this is by no means a maudlin elegy to a lost friend, instead there’s love and real warmth. It’s an optimistic, forward looking album and their best in a decade.

      Q have already described the album as “ one the finest of their career”, whilst the Guardian have called it “a triumph”

      The album comes after a difficult year for the band following the death from brain cancer of their old friend and drummer Jon Brookes last year. Rogers says that they were determined to carry on to honour Brookes' memory.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      says: One of the best records of the year just got even better!

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      2xDeluxe CD Info: The deluxe CD edition includes 4 bonus tracks.


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