Swansea International Festival

NAWR at Swansea International Festival #1: Mike Cooper / Bell Lungs

Thursday 27 September

BBC Hall at Swansea Studios UWTSD

NAWR (meaning NOW in Welsh) is a concert series in Swansea that showcases experimental music, free improvisation, film, lo-fi, free jazz, sound art, alternative folk and new music. As part of this year’s Swansea International Festival, a collaboration with NAWR brings three fascinating, unique concerts to the festival.

NAWR hold their concerts at Swansea Studios UWTSD in the historic BBC Hall, a hidden gem among Swansea’s concert halls and one of the finest listening spaces in Wales. They aim to offer an open and reflective space for an audience to experience new music in a welcoming and intimate setting.

The first concert in the series will see Mike Cooper and Bell Lungs perform.

Mike Cooper

He plays lap steel guitar and sings, he’s an improviser and composer, song-maker, a visual and installation artist, film and video maker and radio arts producer. Initially a folk-blues guitarist Mike Cooper is as responsible as anyone else — and more so than many — for ushering in the acoustic blues boom in the UK in the mid 60s. He has, arguably, stretched the possibilities of that genre even more than his better known contemporaries Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourne etc. by pursuing it into the more avant-garde musical areas occupied by guitar innovators such as Elliott Sharp, Keith Rowe, Fred Frith and Marc Ribot, with an eclectic mix of the many styles he has practiced over the years.

Ranging freely through free improvisation, his own idiosyncratic original songs, electro-acoustic music, exotica, traditional country blues, folk, pop songs, and ‘sonic gestural’ playing utilising open tunings, extended guitar techniques and electronics.

“Cooper, now in his seventies, is making the most adventurous music of his life… incredibly rich and evocative, and as a live performance, it’s utterly flawless. Cooper takes live guitar processing and sampling as his raw material, using it to build something complex and substantive, full of ideas and surprises, not just abandoning it half-formed.” – Jonathan Dean, Brainwashed

“Cooper’s music, in any of its forms, seems drunk on the intermingling of folk traditions, searching for a spot between them all that renders the strange familiar and vice versa. He is an improvisatory musician, one who generates his music in sheets, loops, and layers, and he seems to accrete these found-sound albums like a spider spins silk, or a vine grows pumpkins. They just appear, fattened and ripe, the fruits of his memories, travels, and idiosyncrasies.” – Pitchfork

Bell Lungs

A compelling live performer, Bell Lungs creates sound worlds using her multi-octave-spanning voice, electric violin and guitar, omnichord and field recordings. Inspired by the likes of Alice Coltrane, Kate Bush and Terry Riley, her music incorporates psychedelia, free improvisation, folk, dream pop, drone, transcendentalism, spoken word and a love of science fiction sound design to create an immersive landscape full of murdered moths, crumbling dams and prismatic realities.