First released in 1999, here is the first installment in Mike Cooper’s intriguing journey away from songcraft and towards ‘Ambient Exotica Soundscapes’: intriguing and atmospheric little soundworlds made with… well, all sorts. This reissue on Discrepant is the first ever appearance on vinyl for these remarkable recordings, where they clearly belong.
LP £13.99 CREP21
LP on Discrepant. Edition of 500 copies.
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So I go onto the Discogs page to find out who Mike Cooper is (because I’m only 10 years old) and find the words ‘British folk blues vocalist and guitarist’. What? From the sounds that are entering the ears from this slab of wax called New Kiribati, it is hard to hear the OG folkie strums of the Mike Cooper of old. Just had a listen to the old stuff and can totally understand all the Ian Anderson collaboration.
This, however, is harder to understand. It’s pretty experimental, where most of the old folk/prog/rock guard just turned into some stale cheese pop. There’s some real dried Camembert that we’ve heard from the likes of Mike Oldfield, Paul Simon (yep) and that ilk. Cooper genuinely messes with the fabric of sound here, cutting, splicing, warping and generating weird noise collages featuring birds, crickets, misty winds, distant traffic and sometimes instruments that could all be either real or imaginary. Some of the sounds have an obvious alien quality to them, but most are quite chameleon. I think it’s because the full soundscape is sufficiently detailed to fool your brain into thinking it’s in a rainforest clearing, in an underwater mine, or wherever the hell he is placing us.
The second side is much more foreboding than the first. Two of the tracks cover thundering dissonances, while the other quietly and perilously clicks. There’s a red X on the island on the label - his mournful songs for the Kiribati are on this side, an island nation that is being swallowed by the sea because we make things out of plastic and sell them in specialist stores. Hooray for humanity. Challenging and dramatic, New Kiribati reaches the abstract plane that the likes of Mike Oldfield only dreamed of.
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