Somewhere beyond our own world, there is a place where young girls sleepwalk on water, forest witches heal the sick, and an ageold family has the power to communicate with the dead. It is here, among the twisted trees and abandoned factory towns, that the music of Radical Face makes its home, a realm where phantasmagoria and fables become one. It’s a universe created by multifaceted musician Ben Cooper, who crafts albums like an author writes a tome, extolling subtle Southern Gothic and magic realist tales with a soundtrack of jangling guitar, layered strings, and syncopated rhythms.
“I always wanted to write a book,” Cooper says, “I was drawn to East of Eden and A Hundred Years of Solitude, those multi-generational family sagas where you see how one person’s life affects the family line.” At 19, he wrote two books, but both were lost in a cataclysmic hard drive crash. Instead of giving up, he turned to music. “I thought: why not do them as records? There could be a set of people, and we follow their bloodlines,” he says, “and instead of passing down genetic traits, we could pass down melodic patterns that mutate with each generation.”
The Jacksonville, Florida native embarked on a series of “Family Tree” albums, which trace the fantastical lives of a 19th century family, whose blood flows with special abilities that range from seeing spirits to bringing the dead back to life. Their secrets bind them together, a warm flame held against a harsh world. “When I started, I thought I would do three EPs, but it ran away with me. I didn’t know I was signing up for an eight-year project.” The latest installment, The Family Tree: The Leaves (March 2016), continues the narrative of the supernatural brood, offering a polished, textured sound entirely crafted by Cooper, who plays nearly all the instruments on the album. His DIY-ethic, which was forged in the early days with a four-track in his family’s back shed, has evolved into a lushly orchestrated album featuring his boyfriend, Josh Lee on strings.
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