Show Spotlight: Modern Nature @ Comet Ping Pong, 1/9/20

With so much coming through DC on a regular basis, how will you ever decide what to go see? Let Fuzzy Logic help.

Today, Ben spotlights the upcoming Modern Nature show at Comet Ping Pong.

Indie rock supergroup Modern Nature ponders philosophical paradoxes in DC on Jan. 9.

Those of us in the Washington, DC metro area certainly understand the strange juxtaposition of urban and rural living in this modern age.

Drive out to nearby Leesburg, Virginia — former home of Will Toledo! — and you’ll find a charming 18th century farm village at the edge of a seemingly endless web of strip malls, highways, and housing developments.

Take a stroll down the Mount Vernon Trail and enjoy spectacular views of the Potomac River to the east and a four-lane race track called the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the west.

In DC itself, you can go forest bathing in Rock Creek Park one minute and find yourself wrestling tourists and shoppers on M Street NW in Georgetown a few moments later.

Modern Nature —the new musical collaboration between Jack Cooper (Ultimate Painting) and Will Young (Beak>)—takes its name, and its philosophy, from that paradox: we yearn for the pastoral, can’t live without the metropolitan, and often find ourselves straddling an unsatisfying space somewhere in between.

“The lines between city and country were on Jack Cooper and Will Young’s minds when they named their new band Modern Nature,” notes the band’s label, the New York/London imprint Bella Union, in its writeup of Modern Nature’s debut album, How to Live. “They took the phrase from the diaries of filmmaker Derek Jarman, written on the coast of Kent in his Dungeness cottage. Visiting Jarman’s home, Cooper was struck by what he calls a ‘weird mix of urban and rural’ – such as the way a nuclear power station sits next to open grasslands.”

Modern Nature is slated to perform in our nation’s capital on Thursday, Jan. 9 at Comet Ping Pong (5037 Connecticut Ave. NW) as part of a January tour across the eastern and midwestern United States.

Local ambient-folk quartet Near Northeast and Brooklyn psych-rockers Olden Yolk will open.

So what does a “weird mix of urban and rural” sound like?

“The album has a narrative that moves from what we imagine to be a tense, aggravated city to the release of nature, but then feeling alone or anonymous in a city can feel isolating or completely liberating,” Cooper told “Same with the countryside. We talked a lot about the things we were trying to convey whilst recording...Don’t swing, short notes, etc. ...The start of the album is nervous/tense but by the end it feels like a release.”

Personally, I think it somewhat resembles what I’d expect Lou Reed’s Transformer album to be if you played it at half-speed, which is to say that the band is melodic, introspective, and thoughtful while remaining emotionally removed. That’s not a bad thing. Modern Nature’s music is like a conversation with your smartest friend.

Modern Nature’s deliberateness is characterized by Young's deep, dark, Moogy keys, rich cello excursions from Rupert Gillett, and the familiar Cooper pick-and-pluck guitar quality that adds a Donovanesque sensation to "Turbulence" and hushed Spoon feelings on "Séance."

The presence of saxophonist Jeff Tobias from jazz freakout specialists Sunwatchers is an interesting touch, although he certainly never cuts loose the way he does with that much wilder band.

Woods’ drummer Aaron Neveu’s percussion may be the most organic character of the music, the emotional core of the entire operation.

The official word on the Modern Nature sound, again via Bella Union, is “...plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmospheric waves of Harmonia.” So there you go.

For more on Cooper’s philosophy behind Modern Nature, watch the band’s short film, How to Live?.

Cooper and Young, career musicians that they are, have a tendency to move through projects. If you don’t catch Modern Nature now, you may miss your only shot. Tickets are available online.

[posted 1.5.20]


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