After travelling around the world making music, Erland Cooper never felt satisfied. He'd done so much but didn't yet feel complete. So, after a much needed visit to the Orkney Isles where he grew up, Cooper decided to create a triptych of albums about these beautiful islands
Whilst there, he began exploring landscapes and used whatever he found to think of new sounds, tones and moods. All these combined into his triptych. The first album of the trio was 2018's Solan Goose which delved into the isles bird life. 2019's Sule Skerry created a beautiful symphony of the isles sea's and now, Hether Blether moves us inland, providing us with a fascinating exploration of landscape and people.
Its this collaboration, this companionship that makes the album so culminating and peaceful.
In a fashion similar to Sule Skerry, Hether Blether benefits massively from Coopers meticulously picked collaborators. His frequent collaborator and friend Kathryn Joseph, who was on Sule Skerry features on two of the albums tracks, and Hiroshi Ebina also returned to feature on this album. Its this collaboration, this companionship that makes the album so culminating and peaceful.
The albums opener, 'Noup Head', tells the story of a young girl lost on the island's who, when found again, is grown with a family of her own, forever out of reach to the family that lost her. Kathryn Joseph recites this story beautifully, with the assistance of Kevin Cormac towards the songs climax, it's a wonderful opener.
The songs 'Rousay' and 'Peedie Breeks' continue along this albums stream of peaceful bliss, with both tracks being enveloped by tranquil instrumentals. On 'Peedie Breeks' Coopers mellow vocals are accompanied by the soothing synthesizers of UK producer Benge. The synths are later joined by a wistful melody of strings. The strings achieve new levels of natural beauty as they were played using birds feathers instead of a traditional bow. These, along with Coopers down to earth vocals, amalgamate as a near perfect, complexly simplistic song.
'Linga Holme' is a quick paced symphony. It invokes the feeling of running freely over a vast, swooping landscape, trying desperately to escape an invisible being chasing you. Whatever this may be a metaphor for, Cooper arranges it beautifully. Angelic backing singers accompany a frantic violin whilst the same, fast drum rhythm hits over and over again. This is perhaps Hether Blethers most unnerving track, the fear of being chased is never resolved, rather it comes to an abrupt end, leaving us only with a faded pounding of a distant drum.
The record's title track is mesmerising. A reflection on all that Orkney is to Cooper. A sudden realisation that it's perhaps, the most beautiful thing in his life. The track starts with a simple, melancholic piano before Cooper sings of the islands glory, and the memories he has shared and created there. Throughout the song there's a growing sense of intensity building up slowly, creeping in in small segments before Cooper embraces this entirely. An eclectic electric concoction explodes after Cooper longingly sings "You may be all the best things in my life". A plethora of synths, strings and unidentifiable noise crashes together, combining into a swelling roar that never quite lets go, before descending into a cacophony of joyful strings.
His vocals are almost inaudible, laying dark, heavy and distorted behind an appeasing piano progression
'Where I Am is Here' is a fitting conclusion to this album, and to Cooper's triptych. His vocals are almost inaudible, laying dark, heavy and distorted behind an appeasing piano progression. "More than ever, love now" chimes Cooper, "Time will show you how", before the music comes to a slow halt, slipping into a recorded conversation between Cooper and, a seemingly older relative discussing what life used to be like on the islands. The album ends on reminiscing, which feels quite fitting for the end of a record that focused so heavily on remembering where it is you come from.
Hether Blether is by no means a perfect album, but it is close. It won't attract everyone. But, for me, it was a wonderful listening experience, dissimilar to anything I've heard before. It's the perfect escape if you ever need 35 minutes away from the chaos of the current age, and i'm very excited to see what Erland Cooper does next.
Overall. a 4.5