“OCEANIC FEELING – LIKE” – room40 records

MIKE COOPER (Lap Steel Guitar /Electronics)
Cooper and Abrahams first teamed up as a duo in Sydney in 2005 to record the c.d. “Oceanic Feeling -Like” – released in 2007 on the Australian Room40 label (RM420) to critical acclaim (see reviews below).
Their second album “Live In Sydney'” was recorded in april 2009 at a Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) concert in the Sound Lounge of Sydney University and was released on the Turkish improvised music label Re:Konstrukt in late 2009 ( ) 
Chris was born in Oamaru, New Zealand but grew up in Sydney and is perhaps best known for his work in the minimalist trio THE NECKS. The Necks was formed in 1987 and has produced eight albums and touring extensively both in Australia and Europe to considerable critical acclaim. In ‘97 they composed the music for the Australian feature film “The Boys”, and in 2000 they composed the music for the three part ABC documentary series “In The Mind Of The Architect”. 
Chris has been a very active musician for many years and first came to public attention with the formation of the Benders in the early eighties. During this time Chris released two solo piano albums “Piano”(1984) and “Walk” (1986). In the late eighties he teamed up with Melanie Oxley and this has been an ongoing partnership that has produced four albums thus far – “Resisting Calm” (1988), “Welcome To Violet” (1992), “Coal” (1994) and “Jerusalem Bay”(1997). They are currently working on a new release. He has also been a guest on many recording with numerous Australian bands such as The Triffids, The Laughing Clowns, The Apartments, Crow, The Church and Midnight Oil and The Whitlams. Chris released a third solo piano album “Glow” in 2001, followed in 2003 by “Streaming”, and “Thrown” in 2004. 
He has collaborated, in both recording and performance, with many contemporary improvising musicians including, amongst many others, Burkhard Beins, Clayton Thomas, Clare Cooper, Anthony Pateras as well as Mike Cooper . He performs regularly on the improvising music scenes both in Australia and Europe. 

The sea as a metaphor: Concentrating on nothing but the evocative power of its musical structures.

Art is about the big mysteries of life and somehow, the ocean embodies all of them: Death, love, romance, destruction and creation – just to name a few. Maybe this is why maritime-motived music splits critics and audiences right in the middle: To some, a work like „Oceanic feeling-like“ will seem formulaic and obliquely romantic, a mere mantra of human incomprehension in the face of forces which can not be controlled or understood. To others, it is yet another valuable piece of a puzzle which we need to work on to make sense of it all: How can there ever be enough music like this if it helps us find the answers we need?

The latter feeling prevails on „Oceanic feeling-like“, because it cares nothing for cliches and can do without electronic trickery. A natural result of the creative combustion engine at its heart, combining two artists who have both, in their own right, defined unique spaces of electro-acoustic improvisation, this record eschews water-samples and flowing, floating, gurgling or sparkling sounds, concentrating on nothing but the evocative power of its musical structures.

It is therefore surprising that its tracks carry inviting titles like „Surfside No. 2“, „Board/Wax“ or „Waiting for Otis“, because this is so obviously not an „Ocean Swell“ album. It does not try to imitate the ocean, but to capture its moods of vastness, infinity, majesty and fear. It is not about recreating its movements and processes, but about facing them as a frail human being. And, finally, it regards the sea not just in its absolute dimensions, but mainly as a metaphor.

Anyone expecting a lush sonic tapestry will therefore be disappointed: Despite the depths of its textures, enriched by myriads of pearly glitches, crystalline crackles and rhythmic feedback, „Oceanic feeling-like“ is confounding, disturbing, confrontational and often primordially direct in its arrangements, a bleeding soundscape whose openness leaves the interpretational process completely up to its audience. Listened to with headphones, it is pristinely clear and transparent – but in the confinements of a dark and lonely room, it conjures up haunting and threateningly opaque fogfigures and the creaking of blood-stained wooden planks nonetheless.

Everything here bases on the spartanic immediacy of Abrahams’ Piano and Cooper’s Guitar. Despite effect treatments and the weaving of soft loopnets, the raw timbres of their instruments remain intact on almost all tracks here as a sceletised image of a duo playing together in the same room. On the quarter of an hour-long „Memory of Water“, Abrahams at first lights up the nightsky with nocturnal broken chord pulsations, shifting constantly, slowing down and evaporating into singular dissonant tones. In the ensuing middle sections, metallic strings are plucked, bowed and torn, creating ghoulish resonances and ghost harmonics. In the coda, the ambiance increasingly tightens, growing in claustrophobia, a wordless finale of choking intensity.

There are moments of more genteel harmony, but they are never without their emotionally confusing counterpoints. In the short sketch „Hechizo“, Cooper’s pastoral postrock plainsong is thwarted by Abrahams’ tender freetonalities and upper-register dabbers and the dreamy ambience of aforementioned „Surfside No. 2“ is slowly superseded by nervously overlapping whirrs and purrs, backwards loops and electronic splinters, before a consoling piano resolution heals the wounds.

All input flows into a controlled score, whose next direction can never fully predicted. As closely as the performers are listening and reacting to each other, they are also firing off rounds of electronic reprocessings and discreet rhythms, which force them to constantly adjust to new situations. Their exchange is a shining example of musical multitasking and a statement of idiosyncratic personality where others might have ended up with sonic fluff or free jazz banalities. Quite possibly, the exact details of how they managed to arrive there, will remain a big mystery. But that only reinforces the relevance of an album which proves that the ocean is far from becoming obsolete as a theme of an artistic quest for meaning. = By Tobias