English veteran guitarist-multi-instrumentalist-composer-visual and installation artist Mike Cooper composed «Oceans of Milk and Treacle» as «a soundtrack for an otherwise silent film». The title of the album, the film and a book was borrowed from Cooper’s late friend Friedhelm Hardy’s book «The Religious Culture of India – Power, Love and Wisdom» (1994), who referred to the historian Macaulay who came in 1835 to the «devastating conclusion that people who believe in oceans of milk and treacle had nothing to offer to a modern system of education. A straightforward, realistic assessment in an age that believed in science and realism! The effects were far-reaching. Traditional Indian ways of looking at the world were written off as obsolete…» Cooper goes and explains that in Hindu cosmology, the Ocean of Milk (Kṣīra Sāgara in Sanscrit) is the fifth from the center of the seven oceans, and also quotes from Iain Chambers’ book «Postcolonial Interruptions, Unauthorised Modernities» (2017), who argues that «nowadays the most interesting and sophisticated critical knowledge of the contemporary world is coming from what he calls post-colonial works of art.»
This scholastic introduction does not affect the colorful, imaginative soundtrack. Cooper who plays on a series of strings instruments, drums, percussion and enjoys a vast collection of field recordings is assisted by a group of British improvisers, including sax players Geoff and Aaron Hawkins (father and son) and Tim Hill, vocalist Viv Corringham, and a sample of the late sax hero Lol Coxhill with percussionist Roger Turner (both played with Cooper in the free-improv trio The Recedents). These longtime fellow musical travelers enrich this totally unpredictable, suggestive and highly nuanced exploratory musical collage and journey into the real and imaginary Indian subcontinent, eager to explore the fast-changing sceneries, tastes and smells. Just listen to the way Cooper navigates his enigmatic lap steel guitar through a noisy chorus of insects in «Tritta Gangga».
Cooper offers here his mysterious and ambient sonic universe where the acoustic instruments correspond with the field recordings and the digital arrangement of the soundtrack. In his own special way, Cooper develops further the late American trumpeter Jon Hassell’s concept of fourth world music and suggests here his own way of blending ethnic and futurist sounds with electronic techniques.
Mike Cooper (el. lap steel g, acoustic Brazilian viola ciapira, virtual pedal steel g, b, koto, strings, perc, dr, field rec), Viv Corringham (v), Tim Hill (bs), Aaron Hawkins (ts), Geoff Hawkins (ts), Lol Coxhill (ss), Roger Turner (perc)