Erland Cooper – Solan Goose

Erland Cooper's debut solo album brims with personality through its delicate approach to piano music

Album Review by Skye Butchard | 19 Mar 2018
Album title: Solan Goose
Artist: Erland Cooper
Label: Phases
Release date: 23 Mar

Ambient and neo-classical have blossomed as genres over the past few years, as artists explore the boundaries between each. From the earthy explorations of Nils Frahm to the desolate soundscapes of William Basinski, countless artists are tinkering with the form. Though generalised as background music, it’s more the music of tone. These musicians can highlight hyper-specific emotions through subtle sound choice. Like any other genre, ambient artists have their own personalities, their own stories to tell.

Erland Cooper is one of these artists. Solan Goose, his debut solo album, brims with personality through its delicate approach to piano music. Cooper explores the anxiety of city living by meditating on his homeland of Orkney. Each track is named after a bird, written in Orcadian dialect; fittingly, themes of migration and nature are evoked by his peaceful palette, which uses electronic music so slight, it barely feels there. There’s a gorgeous Celtic influence on Shalder and Kittiwaako – patient lullabies that widen with ephemeral strings and Charlotte Greenhow’s soprano vocals.

The songs evoke a specific Highland wistfulness that Mairearad Green explored on Passing Places. Bonxie instead uses ghostly textures and angelic vocal layering to somehow make stillness feel cathartic, like Sigur Rós and Jon Hopkins both conjure on their most sedentary work. It’s admittedly familiar territory for fans of the genre, which may be a barrier of enjoyment if the textures don’t strike as resonantly as what’s come before.

Despite the similarities, tonally, Cooper’s album feels unique when taken in its entirety. Tracks build in potency when played together, their quiet crescendos echoing each other. For Cooper, the emotion and intent is front and centre. For a style often described as background music, his music is anything but faceless, and should be celebrated not just for its ability to evoke a liminal mood, but its ability to transport you into someone else’s mindset.

Listen to: Bonxie, Solan Goose