UK band Modern Nature, led by Jack Cooper of the late great Ultimate Painting, released their wonderful new album Island of Noise in early December, but did so in an unusual way. It came out exclusively as a limited edition vinyl box set with an instrumental version of the album, and a book featuring "the work of wide-ranging, non-musical artists that reinterpret, deconstruct or take inspiration from the 10 tracks on the record." The box set sold out, and now the album has now been released digitally. Here's a bit of our review from Indie Basement:

Island of Noise has some truly lovely moments: the komische rhythms and playful arrangements of "Performance"; "Masque," the most memorable song, with its chorus of "How sweet the sound, it makes us sleep" and horns that seem to lift you ever so slightly off the ground; and powerful closer "Build" that ponders man's small role in our world and grows taller with every repeated refrain of "Do you see it?" "You're only the blink of an eye" might be a depressing thought to some but in Modern Nature's hands, it's beautiful.

Also part of Island of Noise's unique rollout was a full-length film, directed by Cooper and Conan Roberts, that toured around the UK in December, and was shot in a small village near Cambridge. "One morning in January, I chanced upon a very barren field that was cut in two by a worn path," Cooper told Aquarium Drunkard. "Standing in line with the path, the trees at the edge of the field cut the horizon in half and everything seemed to fall into place. For a few minutes I stood there appreciating the symmetry. The idea for the film came together on the walk home, as I passed more scenes that struck me as having order amongst the ever shifting chaos." You can watch the film and listen to the album below.

Meanwhile, we have a belated Best of 2021 list from Jack, who always turns us on to music we've missed. Modern Nature's music is as influenced by experimental jazz, folk and composers as anything in the "indie" world, if not moreso, and you can feel that in his picks. Check out Jack's list, with commentary for all 11 albums, below.


descension (Out of Our Constrictions) - Natural Information Society with Evan Parker
I had a ticket for the show where this was recorded and ended up not being able to go... awful.

Number Pieces by John Cage - (Apartment House)
It's impossible to put into words how incredibly beautiful this music is. Please listen

Piano & String Quartet by Morton Feldman (Apartment House)
Another life-changing release from Apartment House and Another Timbre. Philip Thomas' comprehensive anthology of Morton Feldman's piano music was the thing I've listened to most over the last two years.

Earth Tones - Izzy Johnson
If you're looking for an escape, then look no further. As grounded as John Fahey; as ethereal as the Cocteau Twins' Victorialand.

No Medium - Rosali
I discovered Rosali's music through the David Nance Group, who back Rosali on this record. Her songs remind me of Richard Thompson's, which is the highest praise you'll get from me.

Luke Stewart Exposure Quintet - Luke Stewart
I didn't hear this until 2021 despite it being released in 2020, so it counts. I can't remember a record that has this much momentum and energy.

12 Comp (Zim) 2017 - Anthony Braxton
The longest release in my list, at nearly 12 hours. Anthony Braxton continues to push forward... beautifully, intricate music by an endlessly inspiring person.

New Spells - Ava Mendoza
A late entry and my second Richard Thompson comparison of the list. Ava's playing reminds me of him and Asa Osborne from Lungfish... this is very free, expansive music.

Nights On Saturn (Communication) - [Ahmed]
The only show I've been to this year was a Pat Thomas residency at Cafe Oto and I imagine it'd be a highlight even if I'd been to fifty. On this, Pat Thomas, Joel Grip, Anton Gerbal and Seymour Wright stretch out Ahmed Abdul-Malik's "Nights On Saturn" - another glorious release from Astral Spirits.

Sympathy For Life - Parquet Courts
No matter where they go, it always sounds like Parquet Courts. Is this the best rhythm section in rock?

Songs For A Shed - Ryoko Akama
Peaceful and beautiful. The space inbetween is heavy.

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