Rayon Hula (15th Anniversary Edition) Mike Cooper

Album info



Label: Room 40

Genre: Electronic

Subgenre: Experimental

Artist: Mike Cooper

Album including Album cover


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  • 1Mele Manu & Ho'okani Pila07:58
  • 2Musa Shiya02:54
  • 3Kokoke Nalu03:37
  • 4Paumalu06:21
  • 5Rayon Hula02:12
  • 6Ho'omanau Nui01:56
  • 7Alohabama02:56
  • 8Caught Inside (For Daniel Duane)02:19
  • 9Typhoon Lagoon03:00
  • 10Mika Ohe02:43
  • 11The New Urban Slide / The Tiki Bar Is Closed06:18
  • Total Runtime42:14

Info for Rayon Hula (15th Anniversary Edition)

After several trips, beginning in 1994, to the Pacific and its Island Nations, Australia and subsequently to South East Asia, I conceived the idea of making an updated more ‘now’ version of some of the Exotica music that originated in 1950’s America. Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny were the two I mostly had in mind at the time, but I didn't want it to sound like them and the two words ‘Ambient’ and ‘Electronic’ had to figure large. I was deeply influenced by the ambience of the places I was visiting (Australian birds are scarily creative) and lo-fi electronics were something I had been working with in my free improvisation gigs since the 80’s. I wasn’t playing live very much in Europe, but in Australia and New Zealand regularly and I was living parallel musical lives, playing folk festivals as well as free improv and experimental music gigs. No-one was issuing recorded work by me, so I started my own DIY cd.r. label, Hipshot, and sold them via the internet. I was free to record whatever I wanted and I did, starting in 1999 with Kiribati.

Kiribati is a Pacific Island Nation and was one of the last places to be settled by humans and will be one of the first to disappear as the waters rise due to Global Warming. Is music political that has no lyrics? I would like to think so. A second edition, Globe Notes, appeared in 2001. The music was heavily influenced by reading James Hamilton Patterson’s books Seven Tenths and Playing With Water. The planet is seven tenths water.

The summer of 2004 house sitting in Palombara, 40 minutes outside of Rome, at our friend Jo Campbell’s house, in the company of several dogs and numerous cats, I set to work outside in the shed with a Zoom Sampletrack ST-224, two mini disc recorders and a Tascam four track cassette machine; a pile of Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny cds and my lap steel. My intention was to create a kind of music that I had hoped to hear when we visited Hawaii in the early 90’s (some kind of Hawaiian Futurism maybe?) which we never did. Rayon Hula appeared from the shed and was initially released as Hipshot c.d.r. HIP-007. I submitted it to the Ars Electronica awards in Austria and was very surprised when it received some kind of a prize. I think that David Toop had something to do with that, as he was on the jury (thanks David). It was picked up by Cabin Records, a new label initiated by Pete Fowler and Graham Erickson and released as a double 10inch vinyl set. Pete Fowler is an artist/designer and inventor of Monsterism toys as well as illustrator for Super Furry Animals recorded works. He and Graham designed and hand silk screened the covers for this limited edition.

Although the idea was an homage to Arthur Lyman, it was also an homage to Steve Feld who introduced me to the concept of ‘lift up over sounding’ in his book Sound and Sentiment, a study of the Kaluli people of Papua and their relationship with their aural environment. From it I gleaned, among other things, the idea of looped sounds played simultaneously but out of sync. An idea which had in fact guided me from the beginning of the series. The Zoom Sampletrack allowed me to make loops that didn't automatically quantise when played simultaneously, plus it had the capability of pitch shift, reverse and a number of other effects built in. Some of the pieces, once the samples were loaded, were recorded directly from the unit in one take.

Lawrence English at Room40 encouraged me to continue the series and combining another of my artistic roads, live soundtracks for silent films, we released White Shadows In The South Seas in 2013 followed by Fratello Mare in 2015 and Raft in 2017.

15 years have passed and the tide has risen and retracted in the islands, sometimes extremely violently in places, but we offer a re-mastered, re-edited 2019 version of Rayon Hula.

"Running his Hawaiian loops sweet and slow, Mike Cooper’s homage to Arthur Lyman is a masterpiece of contemporary exotica." (DAVID TOOP in the WIRE)

"Recent attempts at resurrecting exotica by John Zorn and Tipsy have been a little too reverent for their own good..with zero soul or sincerity..RAYON HULA is the first truly sincere attempt at 21st Century exotica..a cool breeze of an album, experimental but eminently listenable." (Jonathan Dean, Brainwashed)

"Rayon Hula is one of Mike Cooper’s finest works. Recognised by Prix Ars Electronica in 2005 as a seminal vision of expanded exotica, the record has since gone on to gather a rather substantial cult status. Now over a half a decade since it’s original limited edition release on Hipshot, Room40 makes Rayon Hula widely available for the first time, as an extended and completely re-mastered edition." (Room40 Records)

Digitally remastered

Mike Cooper
Influential British guitarist Mike Cooper is primarily regarded as a folk-blues guitarist and singer/songwriter, though his wide range of work cannot be so easily defined. He is also a celebrated improviser and electronic musician. In addition, he creates sound installations and radio art; he's a videographer, journalist, and music historian; and he performs scores for silent films.

Cooper was born in Reading, England in 1942. He began playing guitar at the age of 16. Initially inspired by New Orleans and Dixieland jazz, he played in skiffle groups during the late '50s. His life changed drastically in 1961 when he saw Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee at Reading's town hall and later witnessed James Cotton playing with Chris Barber at a local music festival. Naturally, he began to play harmonica as well as guitar.

Cooper co-founded the band the Blues Committee, an R&B group based on the heady example set by Alexis Korner. Simultaneously, he was playing folk-blues as a solo artist in folk clubs. His first formal recording date was an independently released four-track EP with guitarist Derek Hall, Out of the Shades, titled for an important Reading folk club. Other peers who played the venue included John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Al Stewart, and Davy Graham. Cooper began opening for a host of traveling American bluesmen as well as British stars of the era. He met fellow folk-blues musician Ian A. Anderson in 1967. Between them, the pair recorded three four-track EPs for the SayDisc label. They released a full album of these tracks as well as new pieces entitled The Inverted World. Though assembled in early 1968, it wasn't released until 1970. His playing had developed exponentially, incorporating a wide variety of Delta and country styles in his technique. He also employed bottleneck slide and lap steel. Cooper traveled England and met many other British musicians, including Michael Chapman, John Martyn, Ralph McTell, and Roy Harper, and wandering American players such as Stefan Grossman, Dave Van Ronk, and "Spider" John Koerner.

With a burgeoning national reputation, he was signed to Pye Records in 1969, and that year recorded Oh Really!?, the first of five influential recordings for the label and its imprints Dawn and Fresh Air. It was released in November. Interestingly, while there were still solid audiences for folk-blues, Cooper and many of his peers had moved on and broadened their own horizons without forsaking the roots music that had nourished them. His 1970 offering, Do I Know You?, appeared on Dawn in 1970, and remains unique for its use of field recordings and the jazz bass playing of South African ex-pat Harry Miller. That experience opened Cooper up to an entire range of ideas about improvisation, which were put to use first on Trout Steel, one of his most enduring and influential recordings. Recorded and released in 1970, the other personnel included Miller, Grossman, and a host of players from Mike Westbrook's band. Pianist John Taylor also contributed to a track. Cooper's jazz explorations didn't mean he gave up blues entirely; he simply moved mercurially between the lines of genres and often combined them.

His third effort for Pye/Dawn was to have been a double album entitled Places I Know. The idea was that one recording would feature his folk side and the other his improv jazz-rock side. Dawn issued it as a single album in 1971 credited to Mike Cooper & the Machine Gun Co. (so-called after Peter Brötzmann's group) plus Michael Gibbs. The second album, released as The Machine Gun Company with Mike Cooper, didn't appear until a year and a half later. His final recording for the label group, this time under the Fresh Air imprint, was Life & Death in Paradise, issued in 1974. This date featured another South African expatriate, Louis Moholo, on drums. Other than the live Country Blues Guitar Festival as part of an offering that featured Cooper, Grossman, Son House, and Sam Mitchell, it was his final recording of that decade. Cooper was busy, though, playing live, improvising in bands, collaborating with other artists, and touring Europe. His 'Ave They Started Yet is a live album compiled from a continuous four-and-a-half-hour performance with dancer Joanna Pyne; it was released by Matchless in 1981, and was indicative of the entire period, which found him alternating between country blues records and more vanguard jazz recordings, including the sets Johnny Rondo Duo Plus Mike Cooper, which placed him in the free jazz company of Lol Coxhill and Dave Holland, and The Continuous Preaching Blues with Anderson. The most important recording from the era was the 1987 10" LP Aveklei Uptowns Hawaiians, with French slide guitarist Cyrille Lefebvre. Their sidemen for the session included Coxhill, Steve Beresford, and Max Eastley. It showcased Cooper's growing obsession with Polynesian music, which would inform his playing for decades to come and be chronicled in his writing, particularly about the many slack key guitar styles.

In the '90s, Cooper delved deeply into Hawaiian music. Avant Roots, a duo album with Viv Dogan Corringham, was issued in 1993, followed by the large-group effort Island Songs in 1996. The integration of Polynesian sounds, blues, and avant music put Cooper in a league of his own. It culminated in a genre he called ambient electronic exotica -- displayed by the acclaimed Rayon Hula released in 2004 -- which musically translated the patterned flora of aloha shirts (his signature garment) into looped samples of famed Hawaiian vibraphone player Arthur Lyman for a lively avant form of exotica -- and on subsequent recordings, like the large-band Beach Crossings/Pacific Footprints in 2006 and Oceanic Feeling-Like in 2008 with Chris Abrahams.

Improvisations and songs (some blues-related) were showcased on 2011's limited-edition Radio Paradise: Mike Cooper in Beirut and 2013's CD-R release Right (H)ear Side by Side, which put his electronics and slide guitar work in juxtaposition to Yan-Chiu Leung's traditional sheng playing. The same year, White Shadows in the South Seas (on Lawrence English's Room40 label) brought a completely solo take on his ambient electronic exotica, followed by the global and electronic experimentalism of New Globe Notes in 2014 (with liner notes by David Toop). In June, Paradise of Bachelors issued deluxe, remastered -- and the only artist-sanctioned -- versions of Trout Steel and the recombined Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. as originally intended. They were followed a week later by Cantos de Lisboa, a duet recording between Cooper and guitarist Steve Gunn cut in Lisbon at Rafael Toral's studio. It appeared on RVNG Intl as part of its Frkwys series. In 2015, Italian label Backwards issued Light on a Wall, a limited-LP release of a live session Cooper recorded for Radio Beirut in Lebanon. He returned to Room40 that year with Fratello Mare, another album of experimental exotica, and the following year saw the Discrepant label issue a vinyl LP edition of Kiribati, originally released by Hipshot on CD-R in 1999. Cooper issued a vinyl version of 2010's limited-edition CD-R release Blue Guitar in 2017, the same year that Discrepant reissued the Hipshot CD-R Reluctant Swimmer/Virtual Surfer on vinyl LP as well. (Thom Jurek, AMG)

This album contains no booklet.

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