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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Unfurl, flourish and float: Modern Nature at Sidney & Matilda

A mix of mesmeric British psychedelia, folk rock and jazz from Modern Nature.

9 May 2022 at
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On their latest album, Island of Noise, Modern Nature borrow the premise of The Tempest as a framework – a storm conjured by magic forces a ship to take refuge on a distant island in an unknown land. At this hypnotic Sheffield performance, the group echo the Bard’s sense of sorcery in an evening of intricacy, subtlety and alchemy.

Led by Jack Cooper on vocals and guitar, the band appear as one natural organism, working in harmony to give each instrument its own space to breathe without ever dominating the whole. Although the playing between each member is intricate and dynamic, it never sounds cluttered. It is subtle and understated, yet incredibly powerful.

‘Dunes’ sets the scene for the night: “Some brave new morning – curtain rises again / An overture plays out”. The delicate percussive rhythms and subtle playing of the double bass provide a sense of forward motion throughout the performance, while Jeff Tobias’s sublime sax playing is able to unfurl, flourish and float across the room.

Like the instrumentation, Cooper’s beautifully composed and softly sung lyrical snippets can sometimes be cryptic and abstract, and sometimes beautifully simple.

The band encourage the audience to listen closely. On ‘Ariel’, Cooper almost whispers as he sets the scene over woozy, lazy guitar chords and an eerie saxophone melody. “In a flash the veil has gone / And there's nowhere to hide”.

There are brief bursts of energy amongst the intimacy in the form of the syncopated rhythms of ‘Brigade’ and an onrush of excitement from Tobias’s sax. The majestic crescendo of ‘Build’ ends the evening as Cooper asks, “Do you see it? Do you see it?” over an increasingly frenetic and untamed backing track. It’s here the band showcase their control of dynamics and shifting moods through their delicate and precise phrasing. They are masters of their craft and true experts in their field.

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