You wake up on a beach with the moon shining down on you. You can’t remember falling asleep, or for how long sleep has consumed you. The faint sound of drums comes from behind you, and when you turn around you see glimpses of lit torches through the trees. You walk through the greenery, and discover a luau. Food, drink, and dancing everywhere! But you notice something strange and unsettling: nobody has a face. The music gets louder.
Time to take a much-needed dip in the deep end. Fratello Mare is the newest full-length from silent film accompanist and experimental visionary Mike Cooper. This is an album for those willing to surrender themselves to a half hour of exploratory soundscapes. It’s certainly not easy-listening, and absorbing the intended beauty within requires a bit more from the listener than most records. Now that you’ve been warned, let’s dive in.
There’s a distinct mixture of Pacific cultural influences in these songs. Cooper takes the influences of western folk and tropical music, and melts them together via loop-based guitar progressions that run through a multitude of effects pedals. He also has a clear fascination with the emitted sounds of birds, which can be found on almost every track. It invokes a drunk meandering through a lively jungle at dusk. Slightly queasy, but pretty.
Cooper’s elegant use of percussion is what elevates this from an experimental, improvisational guitar record to a unique experience. Congas, marimba, vibraphone, tabla, and a multitude of other rhythmic odds and ends ornament these songs and provide beating hearts to guide the bizarre melodies. It’s a trip unlike any other. If you’re seeking ambient, experimental wanderings, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)