Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mike Cooper

The first contact I had with the music of Mike Cooper was through a CDR given to me by a friend. It had been said that Mike would be playing a few shows on the way through Adelaide and I wanted to play some of his music on my radio show, Counter Cannon.

The CD, Extracts, was a sublime introduction to music that is at once familiar and new. Mike Cooper draws on his expertise at slide guitar and an array of tools to build shimmering layers of sound which submerge you while his voice resonates on a number of levels.

The first performance (28/03/06), in the tightly huddled atmosphere of the Exeter hotel dining room was accompanied by local guitarstronaut, Dan V. It was a set of precision and playfulness constructed from layers of guitar loops. Within in each layer, V is able to navigate the space in-between, effortlessly folding sounds together on and on and at unity. The room is hot, dark and stuffy when Dan is finished.

Coming back from the break, things have changed. The lights are on. The air conditioner seems to be working and the fans are swirling on the ceiling. Like a breath of ocean air, Mike Cooper sits facing the audience behind a large dining table full of things. He looks calm and is relaxed as he introduces his piece for the evening. I've learnt to expect the unexpected at these gigs (huge volume, and bizarre setups). Cooper begins by announcing that text will be a feature of program, and he will play a radio work for many parts solo.

Slide guitar mumblings build and Cooper’s music begins to grind lightly in the air. I imagine a gigantic diamond saw cutting up something big; producing the glistening sonic shards which I now hear. Half way through, an audience member has a seizure and is escorted out of the room. Half the audience remains in tension. What do you do? With half the room cleared out to help, Cooper plays on and everyone is okay.

The second evening at Gallery Delicatessen (28/03/06) continues where the last leaves off - with a wave of hello and a bit of crackle. Whatever you call this music, free/folk/impro/exotica, it matters little when you are sitting there, listening and watching. It is free in an intentional way. It's good music is what it is, definitely something to hear.


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