Mr Cooper: What Else There Is
Project Mooncircle

A collection of ten hard-edged cuts from Mr Cooper (Paul Cooper, one of the coordinators of Project Mooncircle recordings, formed in 2004 and headed up by Gordon Gieseking) that, for simplicity's sake, one categorizes as instrumental hip-hop, even though the material extends itself into a broader playing field than that label might suggest; a better description would make reference to atmospheric ambient, electronic, and hip-hop forms, if such a hybrid doesn't seem too outlandish. The third track, for example (all are untitled), slyly works a sexy funk beat into its tripped-out orbit, while the fourth is powered by a beautiful boom-bap strut that's entrancing all by its lonesome. The fifth's tight groove thunders at light-speed while psychedelic guitar and flute fragments race alongside it like a shuttle cruising through the galaxies, after which the sixth cools the pace for a slinky head-nod exercise drenched in orchestral strings and the seventh bolsters its hazy atmospheres with a dusty skip. Though track eight eschews the bass wobble so emblematic of dubstep, the massive funk beat that roils throughout the cut is quintessentially dubstep in character

Cooper, who's been releasing material since 2002 on labels like Lex Records (his Born Of Man And Flies was issued when he was nineteen), Wimm Recordings (his first solo album Amongst Strangers), and, of course, Project Mooncircle, provides a lengthy list of things that influenced his second album's sound, and the inclusion of Kode9, Pinch, Burial, and Flying Lotus, alongside the “Blade Runner aesthetic,” Stanley Kubrick, and David Lynch proves helpful, given that What Else There Is could be seen as a fusion of forward-thinking beatsmithing with cinematic atmospheres of a particularly dystopic bent. Some listeners may find the tracks to be a bit too heavily beat-centered—they're occasionally so ripe for an MC's presence, one can almost hear the rhymes being belted out while the music's playing—and overly focused on atmosphere at the expense of melody, but What Else There Is nevertheless remains a very tasty example of beat-based instrumental music, and when those beats kick in with their hypnotic punch, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than right in the middle of it.

October 2008