White Shadows In The South Seas
AUSTRALIA ROOM 40 RM454 CD (2013)
Research wise – I’ll readily admit to falling ass over tip, when it comes to the career of a certain Mike Cooper. I thought that it was pretty damn unlikely that the highly regarded English avant guitarist/composer and Recedent could be one and the same guy who was behind a slew of very fine prog blues elpees back in the late sixties/early-to-mid seventies like the fabulously named Trout Steel (Dawn Records) and Life and Death in Paradise on the Fresh Air imprint. That would entail a really radical change of direction over some time admittedly… but one and the same person it surely is… mea maxima culpa and curse these blindspots!!
With a twenty-year love of all things south seas-related, Mike has gradually honed a particularly singular technique in merging experimental string bending styles/tonalities with the tiki bar ambience/birdcall-populated soundstage of lounge exotica. Souvenirs of a plastic Hawaii peopled by the likes of Arthur Lyman, duplicious first lieutenant to one of the genre’s originators: Martin Denny (read Incredibly Strange Music, Volume One for the whole story…).
White Shadows in the South Seas (c.d.) comes as a rather belated successor to the Rayon Hula 10 inch vinyl set and for about a third of the journey (by outrigger naturally), it’s all plain sailing with “Dr. Derelict” and the stellar lap steel figures of “Night Flower Tapu” easily functioning as moderne travelogue soundtracks. But further on, things get incrementally darker, with snaking tendrils and sundry foliage proving too much for the sun’s rays. Those early suggestions of Jon Hassel’s ‘Fourth World’ series and Pyrolator’s sampler-based “Wunderland” have clearly faded away and instead cuts like “Lung Collapse” and the brassy reverberations of “Tapu Lifted” (irrespective of mother nature-derived loopery) inch closer to the more foreboding area of the industrial tone poem. It’s like being so caught up in the lushness of these idyllic surroundings has made the intrepid voyagers completely oblivious to the leeches syphoning precious fluids from their flesh. Very rarely has anything from the contempo exotica subgenre flagged up this number of ‘Danger in Paradise!’ warnings.