I have a love affair with the sea. The coast is where I spend an awful lot of time. That love is in the multi-layered name of this blog. I purposefully moved geographic location to be living in a city by the sea. I love the ocean's vastness, its sound, its power, the way it's always different, sometimes raging and sometimes calm, so many different colours. I’m fascinated by the fact that it's so beautiful and yet it can alter the shape of the world so easily and we as humans have to adapt to its changes.
But mainly I love spending time by the sea as it acts as a natural break, a reset, from the troubles and stresses of every day life. It’s no wonder that, in the last few months when I’ve had to recuperate after surgery I’ve spent an awful lot of time walking up and down the coast where I live, whatever the weather, to build up my strength again.
Living by the sea also trains the brain to be able to pick up up on the clues of the direction of the coast. I’m often surprised when I’m with friends who live inland and we’re travelling to somewhere by the ocean that I can detect where the coast is several miles away from it when they can’t. The smell, the space, the sounds are all there as clues, but I think if you have spent a lot of time near or by the sea you are much more hard-wired into observing these differences than people who don’t.
Given my love of the sea and music, it is therefore a little surprising that there really aren’t many songs that I love about the subject matter. Seaside by The Kooks? No thanks. Although I do adore Down To The Sea by Tim Booth of the band James and (my favourite) Nightswimming by REM, although that arguably isn't about the sea.
Because of this you can probably imagine my excitement when Erland Cooper, the artist who released my favourite album of 2018 (Solan Goose) announced the forthcoming release of a new album called Sule Skerry yesterday and said this about it: “It’s a record about the sea, our relationship with the outside world, forces outside of our control but it’s also about creating a nest within that, nurturing and protecting our own sea havens, those sheltered bays, those safe places. Always returning back in some form, as we step in and out daily.” A whole album about a subject I love.
Sule Skerry is the second album in a triptych shaped by his childhood home, the Orkney Islands.
The album includes Cooper’s own field recordings and interviews within the community of the Orkney’s, a collaboration with the Scottish musician Kathryn Joseph who contributes a spoken word narrative, using poetry written for the album by Will Burns on the track Flattie and also impulse recordings - the reverberations of spaces from beneath the lifeboat pier, his local town hall and inside a 5000 year old Neolithic cairn which were then taken back to London to be incorporated into the mixing process.
The first music we all get to hear from Sule Skerry is the track Haar. Haar is a sea mist which, in Orkney, can form for miles and consume an entire harbour of fishing boats. Performed with a complete live ensemble it features Cooper on piano, minimoog and tape loops, with accompanying string, guitars and soprano as well as field recordings of thunder, during a breaking Orkney sky. It sounds like a natural progression from the work on Solan Goose and will provide you with that momentary break that we all sometimes need. Once again Erland Cooper has created something very special.
Erland Cooper’s confirmed live shows for 2019 include London’s sold out Milton Hall Barbican performance (see you there is you're going to that), Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall and a headline for Caught by the River Calder in Hebden Bridge with Further UK tour dates to be announced.
Erland Cooper - Haar