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WATCH: New Erland Cooper Video
Christian Eede , November 21st, 2017 16:21

The Magnetic North's Erland Cooper goes solo on 'Maalie', a preview to his upcoming album due early next year

'Maalie' is the first taste of Erland Cooper's upcoming solo album, his first away from The Magnetic North and Erland And The Carnival, the projects he has been a part of over the last five years or so.

Having grown up in the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, he wrote this track as a response to the anxiety and claustrophobia that he feels comes with working and living in a city. 'Maalie' takes its name from the local 'Orcadian' dialect for the gull-like Fulmar, a grey and white seabird that's related to the albatross.

The track features predominately Minimoog and piano by Erland with Hardanger violin and vocals provided by soprano Charlotte Greenhow, as well as ambient guitar from Leo Abrahams. It arrives ahead of a solo album due early in 2018. The video, premiering above, was shot and directed by filmmaker Alex Kozobolis on Orkney.

Cooper will perform live at an intimate show in London in February next year - watch this space for details. Keep reading below for some words from Cooper on 'Maalie', and his views on how his setting affects his creative process.

"I didn't set out to make or release this project, not least a full length solo album but it's developed into something collaborative and explorative for me.

"Over the last year, I'm trying to understand why in the city I feel anxious or claustrophobic, except at around 7-10am on a weekend. I've realised a large part of it comes down to people, more specifically, faces. To give an example, yesterday I got in a taxi and mentioned to the driver after a minute or so, that he was Hungarian, grew up west of Budapest and has 3 children, loves to DJ (but just at home). He was perplexed, as he wouldn’t have remembered that over six months ago he'd picked me up in a different location in London. I'm awful with names but faces, I recognise from a large pool almost immediately. He told me out of 55,000 Prius drivers, you rarely or perhaps never get a second pick up, not least unplanned, and certainly not in a different area, he then joked if I worked for the police before saying, there were "no flies on me". I'd recognised him when I got in the car from the rear view mirror, his hairline, forehead shape, eyes and bone structure and then his accent prompted an audio cue and I’d placed him pretty quickly in my mind. I seem to have the opposite of face blindness and collect faces like stamps.

"It can be spooky for others at times. On the street or tube in particular, I find myself absorbing the details of everyone, every single person I can from the road to the train. From the key cutting shop man to the E list celeb or leftfield recording engineer, it's a curious game - but for the most in a city, it's awful. If I miss a face, I feel like I've dropped a coin. If I miss many, a wallet and when they rush past, like I've lost my laptop or even more drastically, got lost myself and need direction. It feels stupidly brutal to not absorb the details of faces, especially in overcrowded places, and added with other pressures of stress or lack of sleep or not enough decent food, it's magnified.

"Thinking on this more deeply, having grown up in Stromness which is a small fishing town but the second-most populous place on Orkney, I imagine at one point I would have vaguely recognised all 2000 of its inhabitants, so as and when a stranger arrived, and they would annually as the tourists flock in, or even just those from out of town, it was a fun game to store these extra faces for future reference - mum would clout me round the lugs as I stared at them, just after I walked into a lamp post. Maybe it comes from that small town upbringing, no matter how large and expansive a city and its population, I'm thinking local and always trying to make a connection with a face. Having left Orkney at 18, one of the first places I visited on my own, after not having left the island much at all since birth, was New York - Kirkwall Airport, London Gatwick, New York JFK – needless to say it blew my mind and on arrival, walking through the subway to Columbia University alone, it was eventful. I'd never heard people swear like that outside of films, just for making eye contact and asking for directions. Albeit, it was rush hour and I had a huge rucksack, a guitar and a home made, long-last fruitcake my mum had given me in a red, plastic biscuit box.

"My writing process is altered when I work with no one else in mind, not in competition with a band member or after hearing something really good or moving. I simply wrote this music to calm and distract me, to remind me of home, to force my brain to think about childhood memory or recall as many local bird names as I could and their locations on the Islands. Their behaviour, voices and where my dad would walk with me to spot them. In doing so, it worked for me but it also gave me a feeling of warmth. It got me from door to door in a better frame of mind and allowed me to travel somewhere else, seemingly more important and to reflect and remember that it's fine if you keep cool, make a game of it or even stop staring at people, which is of course, socially more acceptable.

"I remember as a young boy once going out for dinner with the whole family in the town - a very rare event as there were eight of us and mum would normally cook like a royal navy chef, three times per day. In the pub, I was transfixed by a large man with a sharp looking, sour face. I was utterly convinced he was a character from a TV show, an outsider, and here in our local hotel bar. I stared most of the evening at him and then eventually asked my older brother, who replied: 'Shut up, stop staring and eat your bloody chips, that’s the fucking butcher'."