The music of Jack Cooper’s current band Modern Nature bears little resemblance to the music he made as half of Ultimate Painting. There really is no standard path that leads from there to No Fixed Point In Space. The shift in direction over the last few years has been seismic, a point that can be made perfectly clear in just looking at how the sounds were created. Musical notation is used as a point of departure, where the instrumentalists explore the sounds surrounding suggested notes rather than visiting them directly. To use an artistic metaphor, consider the differences between Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, and you begin to get some idea of the concepts Cooper is utilising. There really is No Fixed Point In Space.
The musical concepts still apply, but the road map is totally different. Improvisation is actually the starting part in these proceedings, to the point where it seems like every note has been created on the spot. Cooper has compared the music to that of a flock of birds or a school of fish. It is both organic and unpredictable. Losing old reference points can initially seem unsettling, yet once you allow the music to subtly surround and wash over you the journey can be quite intoxicating. Cooper notes, “The vocals are no more important than the bass. That makes the music move in an organically unpredictable way.”
It takes a core of very special musicians to play this music. One of the most special is the reemergence of Julie Tippetts, following a long absence due to the death of her husband, Keith. Doubling Cooper on ‘Cascade’, Tippets provides a musical counterweight while the guitar shifts the focus and wind instruments lend a sense of rhythm to moor the proceedings.
Despite the foreign nature of the music, Modern Nature gives you just enough to hang onto. While the guitar seems to fire at odd angles, the measured notes and phrases add up. You are never fully adrift in this brave new world of sound. When Tippets and Cooper duet on ‘Ensō’, the song grows in stature, illustrating the transformative presence she can have on any song she participates in. Her physical presence seems to create moments of unrivaled majesty. She is a treasure every time we hear her.
Each new album from Modern Nature proves how unique and experimental Jack Cooper has become. No Fixed Point In Space challenges listeners to go beyond what they know and find the jumping off point for what music can become when you put aside your prejudices and listen with new ears.