Sule Skerry is the second album in a three part sequence by composer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper, intended to evoke the air, land – and, for this LP, the sea – of his native Orkney. As with last year’s Solan Goose, this collection of nine pieces shines a spotlight on Cooper’s fastidious approach to recording, and his borderless, free-thinking arrangements.
Comprising field recordings made on Orkney, strings, tape loops, electronics, vocals, poetry and a diverse set of collaborators, Sule Skerry is a concept album with naturalistic poise. The ebb, flow, power and violence of the North Sea is apparent throughout these pieces, most prominently on the evocative looped recordings of wind gently buffeting the masts of fishing boats and the enveloping see-sawing strings of ‘Flattie’, also featuring readings by Kris Drever and Kathryn Joseph.
Perhaps the most surprising of all these delicate and evocative pieces is ‘First Of The Tide’, which opens with a gently pulsing Moog sequence from Benge. Over the course of this short, journeying statement, Cooper nudges this piece imperceptibly from a plaintive synthscape to a piano and string evocation of the same motif, brilliantly augmented by haunting operatic vocals and a denouement of waves gently lapping the shore.
Sule Skerry by Erland Cooper is out now on Phases.
Words: Mat Smith