Out today on Bella Union is the outstanding debut album from Modern Nature, featuring members of Ultimate Painting, Woods, Beak> and Sunwatchers.
The city and the country both have distinct, vibrant energies – but there’s something happening in between, too. As factories give way to fields, and highways drift into gravelly roads, the friction can be palpable, the aura electric.
The lines between city and country were on Jack Cooper and Will Young’s minds when they named their new band Modern Nature. They took the phrase from the diaries of filmmaker Derek Jarman, written on the coast of Kent in his Dungeness cottage. Visiting Jarman’s home, Cooper was struck by what he calls a “weird mix of urban and rural” – such as the way a nuclear power station sits next to open grasslands.
On Modern Nature’s debut album, How to Live, urban and rural cross into each other. Plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmoshperic waves of Harmonia.
Throughout this continuous work, where no song ever really seems to end, there’s an indelible feeling of constant forward motion. It’s as if the band is laying down a railway and riding it simultaneously, and you can hear all kinds of landscapes passing by.
The richness of the ideas in these songs is matched by the resonance of the music. Cooper and Young’s organic compositions gain muscle through the thoughtful cello of Rupert Gillett, the insistent drumming of Aaron Neveu (of compatriot outfit Woods), and the expressive saxophone of Jeff Tobias, from Brooklyn jazz/rock juggernaut Sunwatchers. Each track on How to Live evolved as these creative forces joined the group, and it shows. The entire album courses with both precision and vitality, and is a work of surprising layers and limitless depths. Modern Nature may have been inspired by the line between urban and rural, but with How To Live they’ve gone a step further, and created their own complete world.
Critical acclaim for How To Live, out now on Bella Union:
“There’s a real ambition to Modern Nature’s debut album. Pastoral prog and horizon–chasing Krautrock push onwards, while organ drone and saxophone add to the exploratory mood.”
Q – 4 stars ****
“An open and expansive project, manifested in a sound that lashes woody, folky textures to an insistent motorik pulse.” Uncut – 8/10
“A creative evolution from Cooper’s previous music, with a quiet new clarity and purpose at play.” MOJO – 4 stars ****
“Jack Cooper has struck gold with his latest band, finding the missing link between Fairport Convention and Kraftwerk… A quietly atmospheric, transporting collection.”
The Times – 4 stars ****
“Combining pulsing motorik beats with textured, pastoral folk, Modern Nature weave their compelling magic… This is a debut to savour.” The Sun – 4 stars ****
“An album that takes the listener from a tense urban first half to a more restful rural ending… They are at their best on ‘Footsteps’, a fabulous blend of vocals, motorik drums and sax.” Sunday Times
“Lovely tunes… Krautrock–ishly propulsive with the bucolic qualities of The Beatles’ Mother Nature’s Son and elsewhere recalling the otherworldly pop of Talk Talk.” Mail On Sunday – 4 stars ****
“On their smart, subdued debut, Jack Cooper and Will Young prize delicacy over punchy pop melodies, offsetting soft vocals with dissonant brass and background buzz.” The Guardian
“Blending pastoral psyche–folk with urban drones, burbling motorik melodies, and some mellow jazz skronk, the resulting late–night mix is laser–targeted for those who have Talk Talk, the Notwist and Yo La Tengo forever playlisted in their hearts… A confident, considered but above all gorgeous debut.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****
“Taking their cues from the tender falsetto of Nick Drake, the free-form rhythms of Alice Coltrane and the rattling guitars of Radiohead, Modern Nature’s debut is a sprawling journey through an imagined natural landscape.” The Observer
“An endearing debut… Modern Nature feel like a long–lost cousin of Talk Talk or Wooden Shjips, as they combine simple guitars with motorik beats, soft synth pads and saxophone improvisations… Jack Cooper’s understated vocals only add to the album’s blissful allure… A compelling listen.” DIY – 4 stars ****
“Planted somewhere between Talk Talk and Tuung, the spacious arrangements, hushed vocals and dashes of saxophone and cello make their debut feel like a breath of fresh air.” Electronic Sound
“Jack Cooper and Will Young’s compositions don’t kick out the jams, they hypnotically stir them as a fortune teller would a cup of tea.” Shindig – 4 stars ****
“Takes the listener from an urban environment to rural escapism, the ten tracks here weave together pastoral ballads with gently looped guitars, Krautrock and atmospheric electronica.” Loud & Quiet