Modern Nature release their new album, Island Of Noise, today. The album is released only as a deluxe double vinyl box set with a second companion LP titled Island Of Silence: a beautiful instrumental reimagining of the record. The album is released – using only sustainable material – on 180g vinyl complete with a lavish booklet featuring the work of ten other artists, including Booker-nominated poet Robin Robertson, mycologist Merlin Sheldrake, illustrator Sophy Hollington, musician Eugene Chadbourne and writer Richard King, that reinterpret, deconstruct or take inspiration from the ten tracks on the record. Modern Nature have also shared an accompanying film of the album. Of the film, Cooper says:
“We listen to music in lots of different circumstances, but it’s increasingly rare to sit down and listen to an album without distractions, so that was really the initial aim with this film; to make something that could focus one’s attention on the music. When Conan Roberts and I started filming it at the start of the year, it quickly took on a life of its own as it built on one of the album’s main themes; finding order within chaos. Then as the year panned out, a narrative emerged with a country re-emerging from the pandemic.”
Since the demise of his previous band Ultimate Painting, Jack Cooper – under his Modern Nature guise – has never stopped looking ahead, exploring and reaching for something further. Since 2019, he’s released an EP, one full length LP, last year’s mini-album Annual, one 7” and three live cassettes, as well as the minimalist system music of this year’s Tributaries LP on Astral Spirits – in the process mapping out astonishing new terrain.
Island Of Noise presents an obvious new peak in his discography, combining Cooper’s celebrated songwriting and compositional skills with a free flowing expansiveness coloured by British free music luminaries such as saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards and violinist Alison Cotton, as well as long-term collaborators Jeff Tobias and Jim Wallis.
“Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises”
On re-reading The Tempest in 2019, Cooper was moved to write this quote on the wall of his workshop and doing so sparked the initial ideas and activity that culminated in this record. The short quote, part of a longer passage spoken by Caliban, “summed up what I was thinking about at the time, from the nature of music, noise and silence, to the chaos and confusion that seemed impossible to navigate.” says Cooper.
The rich imagery and themes of The Tempest have long been a springboard for artists, from Derek Jarman’s unnerving adaptation and Sibelius’ Stormen to Jackson Pollock’s Full Fathom Five, but it was the setting of an island and the insular framework it represented that appealed as a way of elaborating on the musical and lyrical themes Modern Nature has been exploring since their first record in 2019.
“I imagined the island’s landscape and how it would change and shift through the record. My guitar, Jim Wallis’ drums and John Edwards’ bass would represent a slowly evolving landscape that would provide the bedrock for the other instruments to colour. The forests, the valleys and the life would be represented by an orchestra of improvisers and classical musicians, working around certain modes and composed melodies.”
Standing in the edgelands, where the concrete meets the forest; the island’s story is told through the eyes of an outsider, arriving and trying to make sense of the mystery and chaos. What do they make of the island’s systems, its customs, the inhabitants and their beliefs. How would an outsider interpret the inequality and divide? Where would they find solace, compassion and friendship?