AMN Reviews: Mike Cooper & Yan-Chiu Leung – Right (H)ear Side by Side

Mike Cooper & Yan-Chiu Leung: Right (H)ear Side by Side [linear obsessional]

Right (H)ear Side by Side pairs Mike Cooper’s guitar, electronics and effects with Yan-Chiu Leung’s sheng, a Chinese reed instrument. The recording, which was made in January 2013 as part of the Around Sound Art Festival in Hong Kong, represents the first face-to-face meeting of the two musicians. The result of their collaboration is a fusion of sounds and styles that navigates a vast territory of varied features.

The first and longest piece provides a good epitome of the richness of texture and density that Cooper and Leung typically create. Beginning as a mosaic of discrete moments that gradually converge into a more narrative flow, Hong Kong 1 has Cooper’s guitar producing sparse, zither-like sounds, complete with percussive strikes and detuning to approximate the string bending of traditional Chinese string music. Sustained sound is had from the sheng, its chords held during the silences between guitar activities. As the piece progresses the sound becomes denser and more active, encompassing backwards loops, drones, and a kind of two-chord progression at the end, over which Cooper plays a nearly conventional guitar solo. Hong Kong 3 is a kind of essay on breath and its sonic repercussions, whether mediated through the sheng and Cooper’s harmonica, or in the vocal-like interjections of the guitar and the actual voice that makes an appearance as the piece moves toward its conclusion. In contrast to the elemental feel of Hong Kong 3, Hong Kong 2 and Hong Kong 4 are shaped primarily by electronics and effects.

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