Ah yes, the mysterious Claude Cooper – one person or many, illusive or illusion, prankster or producer, rumoured from Bristol but maybe not…still one thing is for certain, last year the Claude Cooper nameplate fronted the extraordinary ‘Myriad Sounds’ album, a riotous explosion of wild jazz and breaks that rightly slayed the critics and fired up the radio-waves. Elemental and essential, recalling a Rip Rig and Panic heritage mixed with a trip hop sensibility, this was raucous funky jazz as it was always intended.
One year on and Claude Cooper has now re-emerged working in collaboration with poet vocalist Brain Fog on ‘More Myriad Sounds’, a fresh consideration of that debut available from 10th February through Friendly Recordings. The story goes that the desperate lyricist, burdened by the weight of his unsung rhymes, got wind of Cooper’s sonic exploits and travelled across the Atlantic from his Brooklyn home to the West country nu-jazz capital determined to track Claude down. The NY rapper with an untraceable back story obviously succeeded, the mythical Mr Cooper was found and now we have their joint effort. Whatever, let’s not take the distractions any further. There may be an element of sneaky rib-tickling going on here with all the smoke and mirrors but that’s not the issue. What matters is that in ‘More Myriad Sounds’, Claude Cooper (and his new buddy) have made another album that absolutely rocks.
To be fair, any re-working of a record as fundamentally strong as the original ‘Myriad Sounds’ could hardly fail. The instrumental flare and heated chemistry of the Claude Cooper ensemble on the debut again underpins the new record’s own particular vitriol and vitality. In fact in the ‘More Myriad Sounds’ revisions, collaborators Cooper and Brain Fog have sensibly chosen to keep the musical fabric of source material largely in-tact. However although those nuts and bolts of the original cuts remain connected there’s been some crucial tightening and loosening on this re-imagined companion release. Brain Fog’s acerbic, cutting rhymes and vocal lines have not simply been added to the circuitry, they’ve been wired in to make new sparks and energy fly. ‘More Myriad Sounds’ clearly and cleverly generates its own distinctive current.
Consequently whether familiar with the original or not, the frantic, hard bop derived rush of Metaphysical will make anyone take notice. Reprazent’s Si John propels the tune into action with his romping upright bass-line, lurching and twisting as the raw funk fights back. Sax breaks switch from punky simplicity to snaking twirls and fragments of trip hop piano add an icy touch as Brain Fog’s biting dismissal of today’s ways continually punch through. ‘Fall asleep watchin’ TV with a bunch of brand names’ and ‘Time only gives you more mountains to climb’ are just two of the killers on display here. ‘Metaphysical/Tangerine Dreams’ is the desperate vocal hook, summing up a way to escape and slickly referencing the source track. In fact dig deeper into the verbals on every cut on ‘More Myriad Sounds’ and you’ll find embedded the titles of the corresponding track on its predecessor. Now that’s meticulous, mischievous and undeniably sharp.
Equally attention-grabbing Ancient Residue matches hip-hop eccentricity with musical quirks. Bouncing along to ritual rhythms, the percussive lurch takes hold Idris Ackamoor style while Brain Fog’s slippery soul croon draws out a suitable hex. On the breathless scatology of Grey Skull, drummer Anthony (Errol) Flynn’s rhythmic pizzazz remains the anchor while Beak’s Billy Fuller provides pile driving bass momentum. This track leaves you reeling, flautist Nathan Lee’s spikey commentary plus Brain Fog’s profane and profound rhymes, adding fuel to the three minute blast.
Yes, like the original ‘Myriad Sounds’ things come thick and fast in this sequel, a pace that’s whipped up further by the rapid fire timing of Brain Fog’s delivery and a mix that pushes the levels further towards 11. Under such controlled pressure ‘More Myriad Sounds’ emphasises Claude Cooper’s potential to veer daringly towards noise and improv. Check the haunting decay of This Is Not A Test, all dark electronics and clanging goth garage guitars, or the buzz-saw fuzz bass protest of The Tree Of Knowledge, that lashes between Beatnigs and The Thing moorings, for further confirmation.
Elsewhere things breathe a little more steadily from the cut up, tempo shifting disorientated lounge jazz of What’s The Plan? to the instrumentally psyched, sax soaring On The Loose which ducks and dives with a Jungle Brothers sway. Throughout all these gear changes what gels ‘More Myriad Sounds’ together is Brain Fog’s lyrical vision and deft delivery. This is high end verbal syncopation that content-wise crackles with wit and wisdom. Those rhymes (‘heimlich manouevre/cow manure’), those lines (‘cold beer on the architecture/put a chastity belt on the private sector’), and those absurdist anglophile namechecks (everything from ‘Waitrose’ to ‘wellies’, ‘Poundland’ to ‘plumbers’) give the album an identity in its own right.
So despite acknowledging the connectivity with the original ‘Myriad Sounds’, the Claude Cooper and Brain Fog pairing are asking new questions on this re-working. ‘More Myriad Sounds’ is in many ways well named. It’s more difficult, harsher, more rebellious and prone to distortion than the original. The new album is as far from a perfunctory remix as you can get with an approach to disruption that recalls a Bovell/Pop Group approach. The intrigue and asides, the mystique and banter all add to a record that’s powerfully subversive. Hey, maybe Banksy is behind it all….
Get your copy of ‘More Myriad Sounds’ By Claude Cooper & Brain Fog from your local record store or direct from : https://claudecooper.bandcamp.com/