Ed Cooke: Spirit House
Arriving as per usual in a lovely little hand-stitched sleeve, the eleventh gathering in Rural Colours three-inch subscription series spotlights the work of Ed Cooke, Wil Bolton, and Nils Quak, each of whom contributes a twenty-minute chapter to the series.
Bolton's Melt is more in keeping with the style presented on his recent Time Palse (Hibernate, 2010) than the beat-driven IDM-electronica he's issued as Cheju for his own Boltfish Recordings label. The Liverpool, UK-based producer opts in Melt's case for a single-track setting of micro-detailed scene painting. Bolton weaves constantly mutating slivers of digitally processed sound—pops, clicks, flickers, and fragments of unidentifiable origin (though some of its bright tones sound rather Rhodes-like)—into a multi-layered array that ebbs and flows at a peaceful and steady pace for twenty-one minutes. Bolton's been working with field recordings of late, so it's possible that some of the source material is environmental in origin, though it's impossible to tell when the resultant sounds are so electronic in nature. The piece brings to mind the effect of scattered sunlight reflecting off of a pond's surface on summer's day or, more appropriately in this case, light reflecting off of a bright snowy surface as the sun slowly melts it away.
Nils Quak, a writer and sound artist based in Cologne, contributes a varied four-track set to the series in the form of On Sinking. The material, which could be described as texture-heavy ambient soundscaping generated from both heavily processed guitar flutter and field recordings, exudes a subtly elegiac and resigned tone, with track titles alone suggesting as much (“Please Let Me Rest,” “Forever Fading”) . Despite the modest running time, Quak works a number of contrasts into the material, with speckled vapours of digitally processed materials (“A Rusting Dawn”) followed by what could pass for a Gas outtake (“There Will Be No Harm”), given its fusion of billowing cloud formations and 4/4 techno kick drums. In addition, “Please Let Me Rest” skilfully threads guitar shadings, ghostly ambient treatments, and field recordings (outdoors sounds of cars, footsteps, etc.) into a single, haunted whole, while “Forever Fading” similarly pairs the broken wheeze of a guitar with field recordings.
Ed Cooke's Spirit House presents four acoustic guitar-based folk settings with an exotic and meditative feel, their Eastern character perhaps influenced by the fact that the pieces were mainly recorded in Thailand where the musician and teacher is currently based. The longest piece, “The Stolen Mirror,” starts out with chiming acoustic finger picking in the James Blackshaw tradition before the guitar's natural sound is altered slightly via the addition of electronic interventions. As its seven minutes unfold, the music grows in density with Cooke supplementing the base layers until the piece becomes an intricate composition of melodic counterpoint. “St Augustine” pairs Cooke with Stephen Lewis (of Rameses III and Padang Food Tigers) for a relaxed tapestry of lonesome guitar musings, with all of it augmented by sounds of the natural and suburban environments. “Burning the Rice Field” likewise extends its core acoustic playing into a different realm by adding exotic wooden flute sounds and bluesy electric guitar figures.