Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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Artist: Mike Cooper
Title: White Shadows In The South Seas
Format: CD
Label: Room40 (@)
Rated: *****
Both the title of this intriguing album by 71-years old Mike Cooper and some semantic clues which lend a narrative structure too its fourteen tracks evoke "White Shadows in the South Seas", an old silent movie by Californean director Woodbridge String "Woody" Van Dyke Jr., focused on the vicissitudes and adventures of an alcoholic doctor Dr.Matthew Lloyd (the "Dr.Derelict of the initial track?), who got tricked by his employer to embark on a ship with a deceased crew due to the obstacle the doctor's aversion of exploitation of Polynesian natives by white people was causing to his marauding purposes. A storm will deliver Dr.Lloyd to a community of natives on an unknown isle, whose inhabitants had never seen a white man. There're undoubtedly many references to the personal experiences of Mr.Cooper, who has spent a lot of time in tours and explorations of Oceania, a fascinating continent which digged a groove on his musical and artistic production, including a sort of radiophonic documentary "Beach Crossings - Pacific Footprints", commissioned by Italian and Australian radio, which retraces history from the colonisation of the Pacific isles by Europeans to Pearl Harbour and the dropping of nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, so that you can draw an imaginary parallel between Dr.Lloyd and Mr.Cooper, who can certainly make waves about his venturous wit into musical and cultural fields (there are many remarkable highights on his resume... his very first band The Blues Committee gained support by proper blues legends such Jimmy Reed, Howlin Wolf and John Lee Hooker, he recorded many session with John Peel from 1969 to 1975, he shaked London music scene by his free music group the Recendents in the 80ies and many recordings by himself have been reissued by many labels across the globe) and kept his creative spirit pristine to reshape some memes of the so-called exotica generation and whisk "white music" ingredients and Tahitian, Balinese and Hawaiaan ones in an original way, which generates overlaps of tropical sonic and rhythmical blushes, pacific slide guitars and tricky crossbreed (many listeners could surmise that "traditional" motifs like "Po Mahina" and "Hilo Hanakahi" could evoke Bizet's Carmen!). The above-mentioned narrative consistency and the insertion of atmospheric field recordings, which could let the listeners feel the soaring of birds, the rain on lehua forest or even the scent of the blossoms of hala, could dispel that faux aura, which this kind of stuff may evoke. If Mike cannot be considered an old and wise minister of the cult of Tiki as there are not so many hedonistic, stereotyped and somehow holy elements which deeply marked exotica and lounge music production, his sonic brushstrokes can turn him into a sort of Matisse for ears.


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