A woven basket of bucolic British folk, woolly free jazz, and pulsing organic trance, Modern Nature burrow themselves into an unusual niche. A project of former Ultimate Painting chief Jack Cooper's and Moon Gangs' Will Young's, the duo inhabit a murky space where punchy mod drums, burbling analog synths, and unwieldy saxophones dance with grassy field recordings, fingerpicked guitar, and secretive vocals suggesting ancient rites in natural spaces. Delivered by Bella Union, How to Live is the group's first full-length release and improves upon the four-song Nature EP which they released earlier in 2019. Its ten songs range in form from gently droning folk meditations like the lovely "Turbulence" to sound pastiches like "Oracle" and propulsive psych-driven cuts like "Footsteps." In the orange sunlight of their more whimsical moments, one can hear echoes of Welsh indie pop eccentrics Gorky's Zygotic Mynci in Modern Nature's hushed delivery and left-of-center arrangements, albeit overlaid with the cooler hues of exploratory indie rock. With its thrilling synth arpeggios and skittering drum pattern, "Criminals" is a standout in terms of songwriting and deft production. Located mid-album, it is immediately followed by its tonal cousin in the stuttered grooves of "Seance," which, like "Criminals," pulls a dramatic and deeply satisfying chorus out of its dark, misty verses. Like some of the more cerebral acts of Britain's early-'70s folk-rock heyday, Modern Nature aren't a portable commodity of singles and small ideas. Their music is defiantly experimental -- though by no means impenetrable -- and best enjoyed in its long-form splendor.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger