Jack Cooper & Jeff Tobias – Tributaries

8.17.21 by Matty McPherson

I suppose Astral Spirits has entered into its “Avengers” era, where it consistently pulls the unexpected collaborative efforts out of a hat like its no problem. Case in point with this latest tape.

Jeff Tobias once called me when I was high, before shit hit the fan. I have great admiration for his band Sunwatchers and was interested in whatever act of liberation they were plotting if and when they made it to the west coast. Plus, Tobias is responsible for laying down a tasty little diatribe on Modern Nature’s introduction to the world (aka “Nature”). Anyways, this call happened as Mr. Modern Nature’s (aka Jack Cooper) ol’ solo release from Trouble in Mind a few years back sat on a locked groove at the end of Side A. So, it feels more than cosmic that the two firebrands have united for some sort of “Tributaries” thingamajig on AS. 

Two tracks, loaded over a C30 may sound like one of the more straightforward Astral Spirit adventures in recent memory. Although, Cooper and Tobias adamantly treat this as a “one note right than two notes at all” kind of affair. Perhaps “Isotope 217 sans the pro tools glitcherie” might be a more applicable laymans’ term. By that, I mean to say this is a delicate, capacious kind of tape, where both players look for a place to spread out each note played to the maximum. There’s a quality reminiscent of overhearing a conversation between rooms; following the strings from one crevice into another where Cooper and Tobias briefly collide, only for Tobias’ sax to recede or Cooper’s guitar to swap patterns. 

From the Bandcamp page, information reveals that Cooper’s guitar patterns were “created from systems or tone-rows,” meant to be played off of Tobias’ saxophone across the two tracks (“Wicken” and “Debden”). There’s a level of meticulous spaciousness as a result, as Cooper’s guitar often leave a melody left untouched. Open to but not overtly suggestive about what approach Tobias is prone to taking, which saunters beautifully in the spaces where they do come together. Still, this emphasis on silence and the in-between keeps the tape in constant Rififi mode, tip-toeing and feeling out every nook of their instruments. It’s as if one wrong move could sound an alarm! 

Neither Tobias nor Cooper have made music this slow nor evocative in recent memory. In fact it rewards itself in the darkness, where the moments where they come together impart a particular kind of melancholy mood invoking the spaces of obliqueness between street lights. A whole other album could’ve been weaved out of, and it left me with a sensation hard to decipher. Yet, it felt spiritually similar to the first time Remy the rat must’ve felt when eating a piece of cheese with a strawberry. Two flavors synthesized into a combo that was in plain sight the whole time. Simply put, I find this a boon of an endeavor to wrap yourself up in for half an hour, and truly what more could you want?

Edition of 250 available from Astral Spirits.

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