*** Songliines Magazine Review *** - www.songlines.co.uk/review/hour-of-solitude
There's been no shortage of whimsy & randomness with the releases on The Slow Music Movement & the Blue Mantra Rhymes LP is no exception, stemming from checking out the music of Ed Cooke after he'd liked the TSMM Instagram page. I was immediately struck by the unusual fusion sounds coming from this English man's Bangkok studio and wanted to know more.
Having moved to Thailand in 2005 as a legal immigrant he's been "Broadcasting mediative guitars and harmonies from a sunburnt landscape" via boutique labels and his Bandcamp page, since settling there to raise his family."
The LP you have before you is a real evolution from his previous guitar centred sounds, so Blue Mantra Rhymes has been born. The name is meant to convey his new Thai rooted, psychedelic, orchestral folk sounds, not to mention his first foray into singing after some encouragement and confidence building from Shana Patterson - a music teacher at the school where he works, who also makes a welcome appearance on the LP.
Hour Of Solitude is not only a musician's evolutionary leap, it's a meeting of worlds and emotions. The straight and the psychedelic, Asia and Europe, loneliness and hope, traditional and alt-folk forms, pandemic isolation with it's associated fears, introspection & reflection tempered by the love, support and tightening of bonds with family and friends.
It's an LP that is between many places, but one which has embraced and shaped those places into that rare beast - an LP that doesn't really sound like anything else. Consequently, and like all good LPs, it takes a couple of listens to tune in to and I hope you can find the time to do just that.
What Blue Mantra Rhymes says:
The idea was originally to create an EP with a lush Asian string sound based on regional instruments from Thailand and Asia. A chance to break away from the acoustic guitar, normally the main focus, and move towards a more classical and orchestral folk sound rooted in Thailand. The album grew from the first 2 songs which were like eureka moments sonically. The sound of the Erhu lifted the mood and created new melodic possibilities. The orchestral string backing gave these tracks an emotional base. From their two EPs were combined, one with strings and vocals and the other with woodwind (pan pipes, kaen pipes, and harmonicas).
“Hour Of Solitude” refers to the timing and process of making my music, the pockets of time between school holidays when I am not busily tending to my family. I have always been introverted when composing and found solace in retreating to my home studio (the end of a shared studio with my children’s home schooling area), creating these songs and caring for them just like children. The album built my confidence to sing after working with a teaching colleague (the music teacher at my school; Shana Patterson) to create some duet vocals as an important part of my sound. Most of the lyrics were written in a spontaneous way to convey an honest emotion within the songs.
Within the context of the pandemic the idea was to make a project which would provide me with the mental freedom to explore new ideas and find a tribal folk sound that would feel like a wake up call from nature, a fantasy world that I could escape into during daily life. There are sad moments on the album with lyrics and harmonies that conjure a sense of yearning and loneliness. But passing through these low moments helps the album lift with a sense of hope, especially with the song “See Hundreds More”. It is a work of art that is intended to help my family, friends, and colleagues find a moment of reflection.
The songs and their meaning:
1. Morning Strings Arising
The sounds of a Bangkok sunrise as the day breaks and things awaken. Strings lift and swirl with the creaks and bumps that normally accompany the start of the day. Like old doors and windows opening. There is also the mood of a morning bird song in there being played by the flute.
2. The Evening Tide
A song themed with parenthood composed at night as my children were going to sleep. The strings and erhu were made by playing an app on the phone. The strings are meant to drift like waves with the way they swing on the track. The lyrics center around the hope of taking the next generation to a better place and catching the last boat or chance we have for their future.
3. Alison’s Anthem
A piece of acoustic psych combined with a Morricone style anthem to create a heroine’s theme as a tribute to my sister. She is a mum and nurse who worked on the frontline during the UK pandemic.
4. We Rest Upon Her Shoulders
This song introduces the woodwind section of the orchestra which slides in over the opening string ambience. The idea was to create a powerful giant like sound as a tribute to all those mothers out there, especially my wife, who are carrying their families on their backs.
5. Passing Through Blues
Stopping for a moment of reflection and release in the studio. Microphone out the window during a lazy afternoon. The hazy vocals were recorded in one take and lie at the heart of solitude.
6. Bird Light
I made a short slow mo video of birds flying around a stadium floodlight in Chumphon. The strings and Kaen pipes were recorded to soundtrack the video. From there the rest of the song came together with an Erhu solo and vocal chants / mantras.
7. A Garden Claimed
With the passing of an elderly relative my family had to travel to Chumphon for a service. The song was composed on ukulele during the days of the funeral at my mother in laws house. The lyrics have two meanings; In Thai culture elderly relatives are highly respected and can leave behind good fortune for their families. On another level the song can be seen as a lament on how we treat nature and the land that we inherit from our ancestors.
8. Farewell To The Wetlands
Living in an Eastern suburb of Bangkok where the city seems to be eating up the natural wetlands the song harks back to a time when the main mode of transport was travelling by boat down canals and rivers. It starts with an upbeat melody as if paddling through the water and from there drifts into a flute and acoustic guitar solo.
9. See Hundreds More
A new version of an old vocal that I often play when I am practicing. It was written in the first few years that I lived in Thailand and contains lyrical descriptions of the Thai landscape and street life. It narrates how it is still a place that charms and warms to the traveler. The ending of the song is call for hope and how charma, luck and superstition are still a central part of Thai culture.
10. End of the Day
The closing of the album and a farewell form the Erhu and the Ukulele as it fades out. Recorded late at night when the spark of creativity can still ignite.
released November 26, 2021
Blue Mantra Rhymes Orchestra:
Synthesized Erhu, Violins, & Chinese Flute
Bamboo Pan Pipes
Suzuki Harmonicas in D, C & E
Percussion; wooden frog, tambourine, gong, taiko stick and cymbal Vocals: Ed Cooke & Shana Patterson
All songs written and produced by Ed Cooke
Recorded in Bangkok and Chumphon, Thailand.
Mastered by James Armstrong
Fish Cover Painting (spray paint, watercolour, & gouche on recycled cardboard) by Ed Cooke
Ed Cooke Instagram: www.instagram.com/edcookerhymes/
Ed Cooke Bandcamp: edcooke.bandcamp.com
Ed Cooke Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/ed-cooke
Strummers & Dreams Show - Cambridge 105 radio - cambridge105.co.uk/shows/strummers-and-dreamers/
Northern Sky Review - northernskyreviews.com/2021/11/15/issue-17/