Album review: Claude Cooper – ‘Myriad Sounds’: taut, essential Bristol jazz breaks and cinematic LSD groove

The Breakdown

This album is great. A soundtrack that will raise the cool quotient of your winter soirée by factors of a cuboid nature; a record to accompany car journeys across town at dusk by unfamiliar cut-throughs; a record to tighten up the dancefloor. Without a doubt your first essential purchase of the year.

CLAUDE COOPER: a jazz breaks legend in his own lifetime, should he even exist; for who CC is remains a complete mystery. Certainly to me. Certainly to you.

One physical single, early last year, “Tangerine Dreams” / “Two Mile Hill”, the initial orange vinyl pressing of which is, lemme tells ya, already ker-ching and anyhow both sides, phew, are included here; it was thought, maybe, that would be that. One of those legendary one-off singles; cheers and gone, to be whispered about in vinyl junkiedom.

But then a digital amuse-bouche emerged from the mist in November gone, “Stan’s Plan”, which proved that the Claudian entity was no flash in the pan and there was a lotta, lotta jazz groove to come. The tunes is still all we’ve got to go on though, lads. No what song do you sing in the shower, Claude? No moody monochrome of the man (?) himself wreathed in smoke on Hobb’s Lane; absolutely no feggin interviews. None. Not never. It’s all in the music.

At least there’s one agent in this mysterious, mysteriously great release who’s open about the part they’re playing: and that’s the label, Friendly Recordings, an extension of the rather ace record shop-cum-bar down there south of the Avon in Bedminster, BS3. The first release in the catalogue was that aforementioned 7″; the first LP, this. With props to a fine establishment with an ear for a tune.

What else can we tell you?

Well, besides the guiding hand of the mysterious, elusive, illusive, maybe even allusive Claude himself, the forthcoming Myriad Sounds features a cast list drawn from the great and the good of the capital of the South West and beyond.

There’s Reprazent’s Si John, chest pinned with service medals won in the field of drum ‘n’ bass, including for “Brown Paper Bag”; BEAK>’s bass anchor Billy Fuller sharing four-string detail; Pete Judge, of BBC Jazz Award winners Get The Blessing and others, bringing the trumpet love; the Beth Gibbons- and Geoff Barrow-collaborating guitarist Sean Snook; that’s not to forget US sax man Jeff Hollie, who’s laid tracks down on Zappa albums. 

It has a deliberate aesthetic to appeal to the crate-diggin’ obsessive: a little Warp Records and early Mo’Wax here; a sprinkling of Blue Note and Impulse! jazz, over there; Italian soundtracks, and the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle musical discourse of the Avonside city from The Pop Group forward through The Wild Bunch and trip-hop and bass culture. Big up. Come on: we’ll start up Old Market and hit the road.

A brief, sampledelic intro which is part-excellently sourced spoken word, part Royalties Overdue-era Mo’wax spaciness entitled “Listen To The Sounds” smooths the way for the glorious pop and snap of that debut single from last year, “Tangerine Dreams”, which sees a double bass and snare combo so up and atcha and tight and taut it could cut a man in half at 60 paces, in the way you really haven’t heard in any way this spare and kinda engineered for limb spasm since Red Snapper and Fingathing. I mean you really, really haven’t. Yeah, sure, The Comet is Coming and all that – but they’re hazier, spacier. This is a kinda jazz killing machine, a terminator of Totterdown.

The leafy playing fields of “Hardenhuish” are reprised as a zoot-suited rainy city brass essay, that lead melody climbing up and away and the hand drums disappearing into an Afro-staccato dub space. “Bloom Fields”, by contrast, is pregnant with patchouli and hashish, a velvet-flared rare groove you found in some lonely, cobwebbed junk shop, with deliciously percussive flute overbreathing à la Herbie Mann or forgotten flautist-reversioning, proto-big beat classic “E.T.A (Burning Spear)”. Music to swirl your hands in trails of colours to.

We’re down the rabbit hole now as the hallucinogenic film sequence of “St Nick’s House”, surreal and unintelligible vocals, processed through a tannoy or somesuch, meet valedictory Morricone guitars in cat-and-mouse pursuit. “Magic Circle”: Amicus horror-worthy, bass brutal with fuzz and a little proggy; synths swirl and snares fair muscle, barging past with crisp ease. These two tracks are the soundtrack to the house party you tagged along to with a friend of a friend of a friend and at which the scene is far, far deeper and more committed and has weirder vinyl than a weekend raver like you has ever encountered.

Thank the lawd above for Stan, and his plan; he stops us gouching out in a lost movie reverie and drags us to the living room for some of that delish upstanding double bass break action. Check the yaw and the pitch and woodiness of that bass; and the proud proclamation and skronk of the massed brass. Crikey. Durrrty. So gloriously bloody dirty. Yer tis.

“Holy Water” is the sorta tenebrous, ominous bongo atmosphere that Roy Budd loved, and brief interlude that it is, bleeds away into another ode to a specific location in that great city, the addictive, right-under-your-skin essay to Kingswood’s “Two Mile Hill”, the brass a little more mournful, gazing across the city under dusk snow clouds; a really busy, walking bass all Mingus on yo ass, keeping the flame lit. It’s one of a few psychogeographically specific tunes alluding to Bristol and environs scattered throughout the album; what could this mean? Is it a code to crack, Masquerade-style? Has anyone tried drawing them out on a map, yet, see the shape they form? …. dare we?

“Mongoose” keeps the party aflame, builds up and out from an insistent little filmic motif, those breaks a-go-go, and the double bass and sax really go on to have a ball – check how that bass in partic slides right up and noodles in the higher echelons of the frets. Cheeky …. .

“Stonebridge” is barely 70 seconds of old-skool spoken reassurance, perspiring, tough percussion and moanin’; you stagger from that party to a soundtrack of “Forbidden Fruits”, on the comedown, brittler, the light harsh and rave breaks stabbing, brass swirling and lamenting while the milkman stares at you, bemused.

Myriad Sounds hits on a coupla sweet spots, likes the flavour, sets them up on a date; one is the imaginary soundtrack strand, which is here a culverted city river throughout that surfaces in torrents at regular, headspinning intervals. The other is that glorious post-bop tautness that last really had a glorious moment around ’94, with the Ninja Tune/Mo’Wax nexus: acid jazz grown towards the bold crispness of hiphop. Which was, is, great.

Actually, this album is great. A soundtrack that will raise the cool quotient of your winter soirée by factors of a cuboid nature; a record to accompany car journeys across town at dusk by unfamiliar cut-throughs; a record to tighten up the dancefloor.

Without a doubt your first essential purchase of the year; get the coloured vinyl now, or live in regret months down the line as you assess the postage on Discogs for the only available copy which is, of course, in Latvia.

Claude Cooper’s Myriad Sounds will be released by Friendly Recordings digitally and on vinyl on January 28th; the first pressing is on orange vinyl. To secure your copy of what really is a hell of a record, jump through this Bandcamp portal, here, or order direct from Friendly, the shop, here.

Don’t even think about following Claude Cooper on socials.

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