On a months-long tour earlier this year, brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper of Columbus prog-pop act the Receiver drove up Highway 1 in California. As Casey stared out the van window at the picturesque Pacific coastline, he thought about the solo project he hoped to launch.
“I didn't have anything to release yet, but I knew that eventually I wanted to put out some solo material, just because when you're in a band, you have to keep the aesthetic slightly the same,” said Casey, who handles vocals, keys, bass and programming in the Receiver. “You can start to feel pigeonholed.”
Inspired by the sights along Highway 1, Casey came up with the name CoastalDives. “I was imagining jumping off of a cliff into the ocean, and not knowing what's out there or what direction you're gonna go, not knowing what you're gonna run into,” he said. The name conveyed a freedom to explore “any genre and aesthetic, without pressure to conform to a previous style.”
CoastalDives' first release,All Small Bodies, came out earlier this month digitally and on cassette via experimental label Bludhoney Records. The instrumental electronic music on the release initially grew out of a collaboration with filmmaker Jennifer Reeder.
Reeder enlisted Cooper to provide the score for her short film “All Small Bodies,” a sci-fi retelling of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. “It's about two girls in a post-apocalyptic world,” Cooper said. “One of them has extra-sensory powers of some kind and she's tapping into it, and there's this evil presence out in the woods. … I wouldn't call it a horror film, but it definitely has moments where it gets bloody and uncomfortable.”
Cooper and Reeder worked together previously on two of Reeder's films, but for this project Cooper had to embrace a darker, more ominous style to match the mood of the film. “I'm not used to doing super dissonant stuff,” he said. “Most of the Receiver material is pretty optimistic, hopeful and pretty.”
While Cooper tried to avoid listening specifically to film scores while composing (“I didn't want to be derivative,” he said), he did take inspiration from dissonant themes in Stanley Kubrick's “The Shining,” using analog synthesizers to emulate string-like tones that he pitched up and down to create unsettling discordance and, in other parts, resolution.
“I didn't want the whole thing to be doom and gloom. The whole film isn't doom and gloom,” he said. “There's a lot of innocence involved.”
Cooper said he plans to collaborate again with Chicago-based Reeder, a Columbus native who was recently the recipient of a Wexner Center Artist Residency Award to support her next feature, “As with Knives and Skin.”
True to CoastalDives' initial, freewheeling vision, Cooper said his next release will bear little resemblance toAll Small Bodies. “It's a solo piano EP with a single synthesizer on each piece outlining a counter melody,” Cooper said. “The Receiver is usually a wall of sound, and I wanted to do something extremely stripped — just let the simplicity speak for itself. … That was the whole idea behind this solo project. It's an open door to go anywhere I want with music.”