Rod Cooper Friction

[Room40; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: ambient, sound art
Others: Birchville Cat Motel, William Basinski, Hafler Trio

Critics often articulate their thoughts in ways that cross senses. We speak of the poetry in a camera shot in a film, the taste of a painting, and the look and color of a song. Sometimes it's as if we are grasping for something in these descriptions that is alienating to the audience at hand. Rod Cooper is the missing link between what we describe and what is actually heard by the listener.

Fittingly, Cooper is a sculptor who makes all of his own instruments. Each instrument featured on the album took up to three years to construct. The works created from these pieces are epic and raw, deeply absorbing, but not trancelike. Friction, Cooper's debut album, presents four works ranging in length from 6 to 19 minutes.

Cooper creates music that feels the same as it sounds. The auditory sculptures that Cooper creates are long and dwindling, usually exploring the possibilities of one sound plane. They never shape-shift. Instead, they explore one mode of sound, giving the album a meditative feel. The droning feedback-like tones in the compositions are built up in volume, almost until their breaking points, and meander down to a subtle plateau. The sounds are often punctured by a sparse percussion pattern when a piece seems like it is ascending into chaos. These percussion strikes often stand by themselves, reverberating into nothingness, before Cooper intervenes with a distorted bowing sound.

The concept here is invigorating but not altogether new. The pieces on Friction owe as much to sound sculpture pioneers like The Halfer Trio as they do to the more atmospheric-sounding albums in the vast back catalog of Birchville Cat Motel. Nevertheless, Cooper's feat is the poetry he creates through pure sound sculpture. Cooper's debut is an absorbing experience that presents a striking new talent in the experimental music scene.

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