Mike Cooper’s output of the past half century has been described as ‘post-everything’. It’s a fitting phrase really when you consider he has been at the beating heart of so many critical musical moments. From the development of the blues touring circuit in the UK, through the growth of the folk scene and into the explosion of free improvisation that came to define a generation of UK musicians. Amidst it all, working at stitching these disparate forms into some kind of deterritorialised zone, was Mike Cooper.
It’s fitting then, that he explores the notion of journey on his latest full length edition. Even more fitting that he examines the vessels that carry us on journeys. With Raft, Cooper charts his interests in ambient exotica and collides it with his research into various South Pacific musical traditions. The record extends his palette considerably, stretching away from the hypnogogic flows of his master piece Rayon Hula, into a more oceanic setting. Raft 21 Guayaquil To Tully, for example, sets out a lilting rise and fall of harmony which erupts with spluttering electronics.
Specifically inspired by Vital Alsar and William Wills, sailors who undertook some of the 20th centuries most impressive solo voyages, Raft reflects upon the determination of the solo traveller. In a musical sense, Mike Cooper’s work of recent years has very much reflected a determined solo traveller work ethic. In his commitment to travel alone, he has developed a range of strategies that he works against as a means of surprising himself and uncovering unfamiliar sonic relations.
This approach has proved an incredibly fertile pursuit for Cooper, arguably producing some of his most affecting and engaging works, his Room40 albums Fratello Mare and White Shadows Of The South Seas amongst them. Raft is a vital record that sets its sights beyond the horizons of convention and in doing so reveals a perspective that is only available to lifelong voyagers such as Mike Cooper.