Switched On – Erland Cooper & Leo Abrahams: Seachange (Phases)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Seachange is the ambient companion to Erland Cooper’s second solo album Sule Skerry. It continues Cooper’s celebration of the raw elements of his Orkney origins, the second of a pair based on the open sea. Behind both albums, and their ambient companions, sit Cooper’s long-standing desire to present Orkney in sonic form, preserving the island’s essential parts to be with him when he is working in the city. Initially these musical thoughts were for private use, but have proved incredibly successful when shared with friends and the listening public.

Seachange is split into three ‘Tides’ but runs as one whole, featuring the guitar work and studio craft of Leo Abrahams. Cooper imagines the music ‘pulled apart by placing recyclable source material into the North Sea and watching it become torn, pulled apart, diluted, stretched, weathered and then reassembled in Orkney Geo’ (the inlet between Orkney and Shetland). ‘It creates a different form, with dissolved and overlapping melodies that eventually disappear into granules like plankton’.

What’s the music like?

The intricacies of Abrahams’ guitar are the perfect foil for Cooper’s ambient workings, giving the music an appropriate perspective to represent the vast North Sea. In the foreground the woozy atmospherics are distorted by wind and spray, yet all the while more expansive drones reveal the wide open spaces as the eye looks further.

Seachange works best on headphones, where its details can be fully appreciated, or on a big system where the depth of the bass gives real depth. There is a deeply personal, awestruck appreciation of the sea, made real through music and complemented with Abrahams’ ever-thoughtful nudges and deft musical phrases.

Those familiar with the wonderful Sule Skerry album will recognise these phrases and appreciate the journey they have been on, with bird-like sounds and the ebb and flow of rippling textures all contributing to the movement of water both close at hand in the inlets and on the vast, open sea.

Does it all work?

Very much so. As with Solan Goose, his first album, Cooper has complemented the main release with an ambient companion allowing time for deeper reflection and peace of mind. In celebrating the elements it is a subtle way of pointing us away from busy urban lives and out to the beauty of nature.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Seachange is a reminder of just how small us listeners are when set in such a vast natural expanse, a reminder not to get too far ahead of ourselves and too absorbed in technology or man-made phenomena. The sheer beauty of nature will always trump that.

Stream

You can stream Sea Change on Apple music here

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