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This has been a huge year for Shane Cooper – he won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz, for which he was required to present projects that explored his range as a double bassist.
Oscillations, Cooper’s debut album as a jazz artist, was released in July and features musicians Justin Bellairs, Bokani Dyer, Reza Khota and Kesivan Naidoo.
But what sets Cooper apart from other musicians in South Africa is his ability to function as a jazz artist and an electronic music producer, moving seamlessly through two underground scenes that never intersect. One week he could be performing with a trio in Europe and the next on the electronic stage at Oppikoppi.
“It’s probably been the biggest shift for me in my career because for a while I was focused on collaborative bands, but now I have more time for my own work.”
An LA Times piece written last year comments on this trend. saying: “Shared echoes between electronic music and improvised instrumental music have been building for years, with that shared ground most consistently explored in Europe.”
Last week Cooper launched his second EP as Card on Spokes, the name he uses in electronic music. Lead Me to the Water is part of a concept album: it is one of three EPs that are to be released over the next 10 months, each with a different title and album cover.
The idea is to collect all three (for free) and the final release includes a flashdrive with remixes for sale.
Cooper is intent on not fusing his two musical spheres. However, he draws great inspiration from producers who have a deep understanding of jazz as well as electronica, such as Fourtet, Madlib and Flying Lotus.
The EP is an exploration of beat music, much more refined than his earlier EP, In You Go, released in 2011.
A typical live set includes a few synthesizers, including an Ableton and an APC40.
Cooper prefers to work from the perspective of a “live” musician, jamming and extracting ideas for melodies and harmonies and filling in the technical details later.
He cites his older brothers as his biggest musical influence. It is moving, then, to see them head-bouncing intently in front at his gig, as they were responsible for his introduction to early elec- tronic music. One of his brothers comments that they marvel at his ability to focus on his passions.
Cooper started experimenting with creating music on an old computer in high school. In 2009, Card on Spokes was born.
He recalls his early production days as simply “a computer with a 10 GB hard drive and a cooler box that doubled as a table”.
The name Card on Spokes comes from memories of riding bicycles in Port Elizabeth. “That thing you do as a kid, where you put a playing card on your bicycle frame and it goes into the spokes and makes it sound like a motorbike.”
Cooper’s plans include releasing his next two EPs and his first full-length album as Card on Spokes, and writing new material for his jazz quartet.
• Download Lead Me to the Water at https://soundcloud. com/cardonspokes. For more info visit http://www.cardon spokes.com/ and http://shane coopermusic.com/