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Erland Cooper: Answers Without Questions

Clare Archibald is a Scottish writer & artist who is interested in the interplay of words, images, place and ideas. She’s currently undertaking the second stage of a collaborative project Lone Women in Flashes of Wilderness exploring women’s ideas of aloneness, darkness & wilderness.

Clare spoke to musician & producer Erland Cooper (The Magnetic North/Erland & The Carnival) about his new multi layered project just after the release of his second single “Shalder” (the Orcadian word for Oystercatcher) which is out now on Phases Records. Here Erland discusses his new work with Clare which reflects his interpretation of the landscape and bird life of Orkney, and finding calm in a busy city.

Resound – Answers without Questions


There's this wonderful ambiguity with many different ways to say the word for the seabird “Maalie” (Fulmar) and everyone kind of argues about it. You only need one or two folk with a level of authority to publish something that then becomes the norm and then someone else takes that and before you know it it's a lovely lost language or dialect. I always take my dad's view of how to name the sea birds and that of a chap on the island called Eric Meek who wrote a book of all the bird names.

It's interesting that a landscape that I was surrounded by in my youth becomes prominent in my mind when I'm experiencing the polar opposite in a busy city. It's not romantic, I don't even think it's nostalgic; it's just a feeling of evoking big and tiny childhood memories whether it's the smell or the beach with the blowing sand or the noise of the Oystercatchers (Shalder’s). It's funny that I can be running around London in a busy street and be reminded of that.

Flashes of confidence

I love how in a city or a built-up area you can find a spot where the sun is reflecting on the water or through the branch in a tree, and you take a snapshot with your phone or in your head and kind of extrapolate that back to where you come from. I think landscape is always prominent in the head whether it's real or imagined.

When I look back I was massively fortunate to walk out my door and see the sea and walk the shore. My dad has a daily shore walk and can experience wildlife in abundance in twenty minutes.

What this project is about for me is about taking me there (to Orkney) in my head and evoking those thoughts and feelings.

Birds are of numerous places but also between

I never set out to make this project. I'd arrive at the studio to do something else having been outside in the city and feeling slightly harassed by its sometimes frenetic nature, or reading articles and thinking it can be kind of horrible out there with all the news, so I'd sit at the piano and improvise. Then I’d add another layer each time. Then started listening to the music as I travelled around the city because it reminded me of home. I chose bird names for the compositions, but chose the local dialect specifically so that it would make me think about walking round the shore in Orkney with my dad.

The project was a way of evoking memories and distracting my brain when crammed in the hectic underground at rush hour – i.e. how many bird names can I remember - and before I knew it I'd be at my destination – so it calmed me and made me less stressed. I kept it to myself for a month then it started to develop into something else.

Photo by Clare Archibald, “This Is Not Nocturnal”


I went to Orkney with Alex Kozobolis the film maker, and it was wonderful just kind of handing the music over to him to interpret and to see whether it evoked similar things in how he reacted to the landscape in the October daylight and darkness.

Keening of connect

It's dark and shades and grey skies, not just beautiful landscape. There’s darkness to it with the Hardanger violin. As I was leaving Orkney my Dad had told me that Fulmars or Maalie live for 40 years and remarked ‘that breeding pair of gulls over there probably watched you and your brother grow up’. It really resonated with me and was a hair standing on the back of the neck moment.

I felt I'd kind of be the red plastic balloon stamping itself on the landscape with the tracks but I also felt like something was missing, so I sampled my voice singing each note of the piano in my range and turned it into an instrument like a synth. A lot of the drone is my voice manipulated through tape and although I sound like a crazy seagull that's what I was going for and those weird layers, the weird and slightly darker ones are my voice. It's like when you're walking and the wind can bring different sounds.


What I'm learning is to let go - that kind of fledgling thing, that first flight of sharing where things start to take their own direction.

I don't normally enjoy the live side. For me it’s a few minutes of euphoria and the rest is panic (!) but this project is making me curious. I’m a kind of internal person normally but I’m actually excited about shaping the live side and I want to hold onto the feeling of learning before it takes its first flight.


Erland Cooper can be found here:


Clare Archibald can be found here:

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