On Record – Erland Cooper & Shards: Egilsay EP (Mercury KX)

What’s the story?

It has been an extremely productive and musically enriching year for Erland Cooper. This four-track EP is his second collaboration with Shards, the vocal ensemble with whom he worked on a festive release last year. Once again it has a visual accompaniment, with regular collaborator Alex Kozobolis.

What’s the music like?

Beautiful. Once again we are transported to Orkney, but each time we go we either learn something new about the place or are placed in a different context. Egilsay is one of the small isles to the north of the archipelago, and the compositions here are intended as meditations on shifting time and light. The song titles are Orcadian words associated with these phenomena.

This is immediately evident in the swooping vocal lines of Glimro and Lisbealad. The deeply moving first track shows how well Cooper writes for voices nearer the extremes of their range, with an angular line beautifully sung. The second has an even wider range, with soprano soaring and a bass down low, feeling the elemental qualities of the Orkney coastline. Tullimentan has a timeless quality, like an old Mediaeval incantation set against the steadily falling rain and flowing water. It is very emotive.

There is a second take on Glimro, reclothing the song and including a John Keats poem to mark the poet’s bicentenary. Its sotto voce words are read to the accompaniment of string arrangements from Uèle Lamore and Kathryn Joseph that put the piece in a new light, looking back to the previous EP Never Pass Into Nothingness.

Does it all work?

Yes. Once again this is music transporting its listener far away from their environment and directly into the place it reflects. Egilsay has a harsh, striking beauty that feels fully reflected in these concentrated portraits.

Is it recommended?

Absolutely, as another compelling chapter in Erland Cooper’s musical evolution. The voices make for an even more complete human experience.

Stream

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