INTERVIEW: Erland Cooper | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Formerly of the Magnetic North and Erland & The Carnival, enigmatic Orkney musician Erland Cooper’s foray into the natural world continues on his new album, Seachange, a continuous ambient work described as a ‘sonic poem’. At this gig at Sage Gateshead on Monday 2nd December, audiences can expect a show exploring the natural world of landscape, memory, people and place. Here, Erland talks about his writing process and finding inspiration in Orkney’s magic.

How would you summarise your sound?

Music made from source material found naturally. Alternative.

Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process?

For this trilogy of records, I tended to write on piano over an ambient layer, created using cut up field recordings from Orkney and drones. As well as interesting and evocative resonating sounds, for example a synth echoing through a Neolithic cairn, it can also often start by being the sound of something really quite irritating outside, like the drills and the banging of city construction. I then take that frequency or key and reshape it into a tone through tape and something a little more peaceful and improvise a melody over the top of it while thinking about clearing my head. Then I leave it and come back to it later, think about the narrative and add another layer. I keep doing this until it’s cooked and I travel with it constantly between layers, sending the track to myself at the end of that 30-60-minute writing period. I also get the chance to think about the players I work with who make my 8-10 notes that anyone can write sound so much better than I could imagine.

Your recent record Seachange is the ambient accompaniment to Sule Skerry, the second of a trilogy of albums about your childhood home of Orkney. What inspired you to write about where you are from?

The essence of Orkney’s magic is the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light. Words by George Mackay Brown.

This is a rare UK tour from you. Why have you chosen now to hit the road?

I didn’t intend to release Solan Goose. It was a record created more as a tool to ease a busy mind. Once I made it, I lost my tool, so made another one and planned to create three, each with their own additional ambient companion. In doing so, I’ve been humbled to connect with an audience of real listeners who asked me to play live, so this is what I am doing.

Someone reached out and said to me that he recently lost his father but has been unable to grieve for months. He said he then put my record on and cried his eyes out and that it gave him the space and hope to do so. I would say that is a life affirming reason to continue and to share to a wider audience by putting myself on the stage. It’s not easy but each night we are trying to transport the audience to Orkney by ferry, very slowly and very gently and if I feel like I am getting there, the audience seem to also. I do believe in less is more live, it is more sustainable in all areas so the number of concerts is planned this way and to end in Gateshead.

You work across multi-arts projects including gallery, film and installations. Will there be a visual element to your live show at Sage Gateshead?

As guests are seated they will be welcomed by the sounds of Murmuration and Seachange while visuals from my collaborator Alex Kozobolis run on a continuous ambient loop. As we take to the stage, we will all try to board the last ferry home, with the Orkney sun and searchlight as our beacon.


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