‘Sule Skerry’ is the second album in a trilogy that Erland Cooper has been composing that’s been heavily influenced by his home, The Orkney Islands. The album pays homage to the land and in particular its sea. Piano, strings, synths and spoken word combine to create an appreciation for home and peace.
Each track in ‘Sule Skerry’ feels meditative. If it’s the gentle operatic vocals of ‘Haar’ (which feels like it could score a banking commercial for its sins), the pitter-patter synths of ‘First of the Tide’ or the lonely ambience of ‘Creels’ – each track feels delicate. The strings have a thinness to them like air. The piano often sounds muted and soft so each note is like a caress. Each time someone speaks or sings, their voice is either fragile and tentative or spoken like the telling of an old story. It must be a Scottish thing as the closest I’ve heard to this style of musical storytelling is with Iain Morrison.
This gentle yearning gets artistically painted in different ways for each track. ‘Sillocks’ uses call and response between string and voice. ‘Flattie’ is a huge expansive nine minute post-classical piece that utilises bustling synths to give weight to a lot of the track. When the bass synths and effects bleed away you are treated to beautiful embellishments of tuned percussion and whispered poems. It sounds so otherworldly whilst feeling of the earth. There are two other dramatic pieces. The cinematic ‘Lump O’Sea’ feels huge and expansive as the drums thunder in with huge echoes over the piano, xylophones and chimes. ‘Spoot Ebb’, which was my introduction to Erland Cooper and his music, is a rolling piano and electronic percussion loop that has the ocean waves and sympathetic strings building atmosphere around it. These bigger tracks really break up the more simple-on-the-surface sound elsewhere.
Erland Cooper has created the definition of a grower with ‘Sule Skerry’. My first play found me enjoying the intricate way stories and soundscapes were drawn together but it took a few listens for them to really blossom into life. The best thing I did was take the album with me on a train ride. With ‘Sule Skerry’ playing the world zooming passed my window, the album clicked and I haven’t looked back since. A beautiful album about home.
Recommended track: First of the Tide
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