Crouching beside me at our IndieDay outing last month, one third of our local folk trio, The Lost Trades, Tamsin Quin explained she’s slowly working toward her second album but a lot of time is spent concentrating on progressing the Lost Trades. I supposed here is an advantage to DIY projects, as if The Lost Trades were signed to contract it’d likely be an order to focus entirely on the group.
In pop we’ve seen the pressure put on bands to collaborate equitably, and the result usually causes a split in the end. Major record companies in tough competition don’t do enough to discourage this. Note drama sells in Simon Cowell’s ‘show-me-how-easy-it-is-to-manufacture-a-pop-star’ dressed-up karaoke television show, and hear the boos as he obstinately and impassively divides a prearranged group. He sells the tears of the rejected and the tension as young friends split. You could blame Yoko Ono, if you must, but bands breaking up is, sadly, no new thing.
Hence the accord and friendship between unsigned bands is a delightful contradiction to the harsh realities of the music industry, and I sense an unequalled unity in The Lost Trades, and deep respect for each other’s solo work. Cue another third, Phil Cooper, the binding, organised element of the Lost Trades, and his new solo album, These Revelation Games due for release by Infinite Hive on 30th October. It’s great, I’d expect no less, and Phil’s fanbase too, but it’s varied content would also serve as a taster for newcomers to his repertoire.
Historically it’s been over a couple of years since he sent me his Thoughts & Observations album to review, which does what it says on the tin, largely acoustic-based annotations and judgements. But I focus on a particular night down the Southgate when Phil was accompanied by his Slight Band. Man, he was on fire, loudly and proudly rocking our legendary live music tavern with unsurpassed esteem and passion. Make no mistake, These Revelation Games contains many a track comparable with Thoughts & Observations, they’re observational and sometimes quirkily humoured. But this new solo album takes no prisoners, and blasts its doors clean off their hinges from the off.
Yeah, while so the opening tune, House of Mirrors explodes rock, and dare I say it, has that impact of the sixties Batman theme, it shouts the riff at you, second up Phil returns us to the mellowed aural breeze we’re more accustomed to with his recorded material. So, it’s a mixed bag of astutely written and perfectly executed songs with Phil’s joyful aura and defining style.
Eleven songs heavy, the early tunes creep us slowly back to the up-tempo as it progresses. Without a Sound particularly adroitly manages to raise that notion, and Keep Your Hands on the Wheel is a prime example of how Phil ingeniously twists metaphors of the simplest of everyday things. Leading us onto the quirkiest song, I am a Radio. Akin to Robots on the Lost Trades EP, Phil makes a heartfelt connection to an inanimate object, yet here using sound effects to create the idea his voice is operating on shortwave. It’s by far the most interesting and experimental, also absorbing his electronica work under the title BCC.
For marvellously prolific and diversified is our Phil, performing as solo, as The Slight Band, his electronica side-project, or what it’s now concentrated on, the outstanding folk harmonies of The Lost Trades with Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, Phil never slacks off or confines himself to one sound. “I wasn’t planning a new album this year,” Phil expressed, “but then, all plans for 2020 went out the window six months ago. So, I spent my time in lockdown writing and recording a whole load of songs that explored influences I’ve never explored before.” Therefore, as a solo album, bought about by lockdown, don’t expect it to remain in one place.
It rocks without reference to this folk avenue, for sure, but stretches to every corner of rock. There are surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Fervent ballads like the particularly adroit Into the Void, whisking Lennon-like. And there’s ardent electric blues, Changing Times perhaps best example of the latter. It polishes the experience off with a Clapton-fashioned smooth blues finale called The Horseman Rides Tonight.
With a plethora of new music being produced, lockdown it seems did have one benefit, and These Revelation Games in a varied taster of a concentrated Phil Cooper at his peak. I look forward to the progression of the Lost Trades, but love this aforementioned freedom to produce solo work too. I mentioned my chat with Tamsin to Phil, about the time and effort dedicated to the Lost Trades, but the joy of the flexibility of freely venturing off to work solo, thoroughly supported by the other members of the trio. “You’re far from the band in the Commitments film,” I noted!
“Yeah,” Phil responded, “having a record label release it has helped keep the balance between solo and Lost Trades stuff. The Lost Trades has always been built on mutual respect for each other’s work, so we’ll always support each other.” Which kinda wraps it up aptly, the ethos of the trio is like this album, nice. Nice one Phil, nice one, son!