Sunday, 29 October 2017

Sophie Cooper.

File this one under curious. I saw the release announcements for Sophie Cooper, an avant-garde sonic / acoustic improv. trombone player from Yorkshire and I must admit to not really being tempted. It is on the Yorkshire label Crow Vs. Crow whose last release by Steff Ketteringham I found verged on the unlistenable. And then a copy arrived through the post (thank you Andy) and I now admit to be pleasantly surprised.
There are a lot of tracks on this tape. Fifteen of them.....sketches I suppose. All of the tracks were recorded at an artist residency at The Curfew Tower in Cushendall, Northern Ireland. Hence the title "The Curfew Tower Recordings". The opening piece is a calming drone piece with treated shruti box (an Indian drone instrument similar in sound to a harmonium) and trombone. It is not what I expected. Closer to David Jackman than George Chisholm. The instruments lull and drift filling the room with melancholic air until a lone voice tunefully mourns along with the drone. This arcs into a great amp noise driven loop of trombone and voice. And then, about seven or eight minutes into side A it all takes a turn.
There are 'interruptions'. "Dial-A-Bone" calls. A telephone service where callers ask for a trombone to be played down the phone. Long or short, high or low notes ... it's kind of comedic in an unfunny kind of way and from the first "Dial-A-Bone" call the whole of side A goes downhill. Raw trombone sounding like an annoying neighbour practicing scales etc.
It did put me off turning the tape over straight away to experience side B. Side B begins with 'Tribute To La Monte Young And Maria Zezeela's Oceans". Again the shruti box, this time to the sound of a rippling tide and a siren's call. A somnambulistic meditative piece. It is beautiful - one of the finest pieces I have heard for a while, broken by another "Dial-A-Bone" interlude.
"Push The Button" has a sonic acoustic feel, very isolated but a lot warmer than the solo trombone pieces / sketches on side A, probably because it is hard to define the sounds as trombone. "Keep It Running" is a prime example. This could be Throbbing Gristle taking sonic looping to the edge. Side B has the more experimentation with sound and effects and it is my preferred listen. There's still the pointless "Dial-A-Bone" interruptions, but (by now) they're palatable.

I see Sophie Cooper has ears. She has released on labels such as Tor Press, Was Its Das?, Blackest Rainbow and Wild Silence. The tape is available via the Crow Vs. Crow bandcamp page, also visit the Sophie Cooper website.

I shall be playing some Sophie Cooper on the next MuhMur Radio Broadcast.

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