The best part about listening to Lead Me To The Water is knowing that the musicality and skill behind its creation stems from a lifetime commitment to music, and not just the ownership of a MacBook and having access to the internet. Shane Cooper (Card On Spokes) is a self-proclaimed future space-synth producer, but is first and foremost a jazz musician – a bassist and The Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2013, to be precise. Don’t let the corporate sponsorship of that title fool you. It’s legit. The most legit. If you’re ever able to attend the annual Youth Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, do so, and you will see the outlandish and raw musical talent that exists in our country (the kind that has sadly not yet been deemed aesthetically pleasing enough to be loved by the internet) and understand what it means to achieve that title.
He’s been producing as Card On Spokes since 2009 and also goes by Datsun Brown as one half of SEAFOOD ∆∆∆ with fellow producer, Ross Finck (Dank). He released his first EP, In You Go, in 2011, which saw him breaking away from his comfortable jazz shell, using only electronic sounds. Lead Me To The Water sees Cooper more comfortable in his own skin, using his now finely tuned producer chops to effortlessly marry his jazz and electronic music. He’s incorporated live instruments, including double bass, a marovany, a Rhodes piano and random pieces of metal from his kitchen.
The EP, brilliantly mixed and mastered by SEAFOOD ∆∆∆ partner Ross Finck, is the first in a three part series. It opens with ‘Rain’ featuring vocalist Nicky Schrire. The track is a shining example of how Cooper, through studying music, has gained a deeper understanding of how to use it to effectively create powerful imagery, as it is the music that creates the sense of rain, rather than Schrire’s lyrics. Her beautiful vocals act as breathtaking beams of light soaring through a thick cloud of driving bass. This is before we’re blessed with the most badass bridge section, filled with sophisticated but playful synth work and the kind of bass playing that would have you and the friend you’re listening with look at each other and shout “Aaaaah!” in disbelief. The dominating vocal line, “Lead me to the water”, creates a sense of wanting to learn and starting fresh – appropriate for the opening track of what is to be a three part journey.
The second and third tracks complement the first by initiating the journey that it claims to want to embark on. ‘Goldshine’ features Lance Herman on vocals, Reza Khota on guitar and Nils Berg on flute in a dreamy and euphoric first few steps. This is followed by ‘Ladders’, where Schrire features again, as well as Cooper’s double bass. The track starts off with eerie vocals and a thumping bass which, along with the lyrics, indicate the point at the beginning of a journey at which doubt sets in. But the track fights through this doubt and triumphs in the end with a soothing synth line and a crisp, celebratory trumpet solo.
As fellow Platform editor, Andy Petersen, discusses in his analysis of authenticity in South African music in the print edition of Platform Issue 01, it is clear that we should all keep listening. Keep listening for musicians like Shane Cooper. Musicians who are brave and willing to make music that is sincere and resonates with who they are and not just what the internet is telling them to make. Lead Me To The Water is a beautifully constructed and exciting glimpse into the future.
Check out the EP when it drops later today and the launch at True Italic on Bree Street on Friday 6 December.