Mike Cooper’s new album Fratello Mare is a rare thing: not only a record produced by a man fifty years into this music game, but also one that is inventive, interesting and fresh. Nice one Mike. This Pacific-themed sonic journey centres around lap-steel, with an array of other flavoursome sounds (percussion, field recordings etc.) adding texture. On Room 40.
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- Fratello Mare by Mike Cooper
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There was a time when every self-respecting hipster would have an extensive ‘Hawaiian guitar’ section in their record collection. I’m talking about the 1950’s here, when the islands of the South Pacific and Caribbean fired (cold) war-weary Western imaginations with the exotic allure of non-work, untainted paradisaical coastlines and unrepressed sensuality. Mike Cooper is most definitely of this generation and has taken this fascination with him through a pretty crazy career, culminating in this pretty crazy oddity of an album on Lawrence English’s Room 40 label.
Originally from the UK, Cooper first became known as a bluesman in the 1960s; a pivotal figure in the popularisation of the genre in the UK, playing with legends like John Lee Hooker and Howling Wolf, amongst others. In the 1980s he turned his hand to free improv, forming The Recedents with Lol Coxhill and Roger Turner. For the last couple of decades he’s been exploring the islands of Oceania, delving deep into their history and cultures. This, his latest in a series of ‘post-everything’ exotica albums, features an atmospheric, dreamlike sequence of tracks in which Cooper’s lithe, meandering slide-guitar lines mesh with sun-baked field recording collages of bamboo percussion, kaleidoscopic gamelan, cicadas and exotic birds.
The nearest thing I can think to compare it to would be some Sun City Girls, with their blend of avant-guard aesthetics and distinctly non-Western cultural expressions. I wonder what Tiki culture connoisseur Boyd Rice would make of this?
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