by Philip Moss
Jack Cooper’s career has been one of much intrigue. The Blackpool native, who moved to Manchester in his teens, began as a pacing musician for Jim Noir, before starting his own band – the psychedelic pop quintet, The Beep Seals. Despite garnering critical acclaim, the Seals disbanded, before he went onto form Mazes and Ultimate Painting. Now, he’s back again with his latest group – Modern Nature – and it just so happens to be the best output to date.
Taking their name from Derek Jarman’s diary, the four piece – which comprises of Cooper, alongside Will Young from BEAK>, Woods’ Aaron Neveu and Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias – have conjured up a record that’s subtly special.
Built on motorik percussion, Footsteps showcases Cooper’s ear for seductive melody, before segueing to a flurry of erratic saxophones. Underneath the carefully built arrangements, these are beautifully crafted songs and it would certainly be interesting to hear them stripped back – Criminals‘ subtle melody has the softness of Nick Drake, while vocally Cooper recalls Duels’ frontman, Jon Fougler. So where krautrock can often feel mechanical, How To Live is spacious – carrying the gentle calmness of a summer breeze – making it a perfect record to let your mind wander to. Single, Seance, is perhaps the most immediate piece, but do not confuse that for meaning throwaway; this anxiety filled track, which stutters through chopped tape edits, is the the perfect example of their emotional sound that – like Spiritualized or Talk Talk – is ‘heavy’ without ever actually ‘kicking in’.
Cooper is testament to the ‘try, try and try again’ philosophy. For almost a decade and a half, he’s been releasing music. But How To Live really does feel like a record that he’s been building towards his whole career. It’s a true joy to be in its deeply engaging, thoroughly evocative presence. This is a quietly understated masterpiece.
Secret Meeting score: 84