by Kyle Taylor |
Stuck in the majestic momentum of spring time, it is difficult to not turn our ears to something a little more easing. There is something about the lush subtleties and vibrant doses of sunshine this time of year that simply sets our hearts a flutter.
Having developed a profound career of exemplary musicianship, Ben Cooper’s most renowned project is no doubt Radical Face. Simple, yet far from plain, the elegant acoustic and folk punctuation of the project is the perfect mirror to this splendid time of year. After a debut album, Ghost, in 2007, Cooper quickly took to expanding on the record’s theme. Covering the lifespan of a house, from its perspective, the album explored the many relationships and lifetimes that unfolded within its walls.
Since, Radical Face has followed suit into The Family Tree series. Last week Cooper renewed life in the series through its third installment, The Family Tree: The Leaves (fourth if you include The Basterds, released last year including b-sides and other recordings that did not make the final cuts for any of the formal Family Tree records). Covering an over-arching theme, but not necessarily strict story line, the records replicate the same reverence of antiquity and acoustic beauty introduced by the project’s debut release.
While the timeline of The Family Tree is less apparent than the series’ predecessor, each album, both singularly and as a part of the collection, remains cohesive in musicality and lyricism. From the beginning, Cooper declared the project to focus on classical folk and acoustic elements, delving into a realm of music far too often forgotten in the modern era. The Leaves continues that trend to glaring success. Wrapping compositions in soft, ghostly soprano vocals and minimal, but far from simplistic, arrangements, a clear and concise sound is at this point well beyond its adolescent stages for the project- much like that of the story behind this newest album and its siblings.
Radical Face is taking music, remembering what it does best, and applying that. Every strum of the guitar, and patter of percussion; each swaying string, and mournful vocal is firmly embedded in raw emotion. Cooper’s ability to capture the thoughts and feelings of these fictional characters- sometimes inhuman and even inanimate- is at times befuddling, and if nothing else, humbling.
A devotion to understanding the trials of life and passing time, not from a personal point of view, but that of a greater, holistic perspective, seems more so the source of the record’s (and honestly all of Cooper’s music’s) remarkable success. No need to downplay his comprehension and skillfulness as a musician, as those attributes are equally well in tact here- and across his entire discography. The sense of not only empathy, but actual character construction felt through each note and word, however, is undoubtedly the glue keeping this masterpiece together. Radical Face has accomplished what he set out to do: he has instilled new life in outdated perspectives, trials of life, and even otherwise overlooked musical structures by means of resurrecting their relevance.