CukoO — Victoria Wilson
Victoria Wilson is a multi-instrumentalist and special needs teacher. She was previously the guiding light in Birmingham band ‘Avrocar’, singing, writing songs and playing synthesizers. Radiohead cited Avrocar as an inspiration for their Kid A album. With a series of previous releases under her belt and a keen track record in live performance in the United Kingdom and across Europe, in CukoO, Wilson is forging a fascinating new path into ‘useful’ music.
She writes sensory music to be used in conjunction with physical objects and movements in order to stimulate the school children who have profound and multiple learning difficulties. Her method is used in several special schools in the UK, particularly in London and Dorset. She currently practices her craft at a Rudolph Steiner school near the New Forest.
Sometimes, she writes totally banging organic techno, but it’s as weird as you can imagine and currently is only heard played out in the sound systems of strange music venues in dark and stormy landscapes like Yeovil, where she occasionally plays live.
It’s an appealing, genre-challenging LP that will really grab those with an ear for gentle experimentation. ‘Rain’, ‘Birds’ and ‘Wind & Leaves’ are reverie-inducing, and standout ‘Woodpecker’, which partners lugubrious analogue sound effects with sensuous mystic-jazz sax notes, summons us deeper into the wood’s secret midsummer underworld. All while the faint drumming of the woodpecker can still be heard high above. Superb.Carl Griffin, Electronic Sound Magazine
Created by Victoria Wilson, whose CukoO alias follows her time fronting Birmingham electronica group Avrocar, the pieces are designed to stimulate the senses and imaginations of children with profound physical and learning disabilities. Echoing Wilson’s Birmingham contemporaries Plone in its mix of melodic simplicity, bric-a-brac arrangements and Radiophonic flourishes (the kit list includes an EMS VCS3 and a Revox B77 reel-to-reel tape machine), these gently upbeat compositions paint vivid pictures without being prescriptive. A carefree saxophone theme over watery field recordings puts listeners aboard a drifting twig on ‘River Sticks’; for ‘Wind & Leaves’ bell-tree chimes suggest encircling trees. Animals are imitated, from the duet of treble and sopranino recorders set against real birdsong on ‘Birds’ to the metallic synth snuffling of ‘Hedgehog’. Yet Wilson always leaves ample room for daydreaming.Abi Bliss, The Wire
Specifically designed as a sensory classroom-aid for special needs children, Victoria Wilson’s Woodland Walk harks back to ’70s BBC schools broadcats, the drones and ripples of her EMS VCS3 combining with Carl Orffian recorders, woodblock chatter and melancholy glockenspiel to suggest a lost library music wonder that Jonny Trunk has yet to discover.Andrew Male, Mojo
CukoO is multi-instrumentalist and special needs teacher Victoria Wilson. Woodland Walk was originally conceived as a music project to provide sensory stimulation for profoundly disabled children, but its combination of analogue electronics, traditional classroom instrumentation and field recordings means that fans of Trunk Records, Ghost Box etc. will also find much to love here.
Faux naif compositional simplicity is offset by a mysterious, sometimes sinister undercurrent. ‘Birds’ is a prime example: two recorders intertwine over a minimal but funky backbeat, creating a spooky, unsettling dynamic. The clashing electronic washes and clarinet of ‘Conkers’ produces a similar vibe, while the throbbing synth and delicate glockenspiel of ‘Rain’ is more playful. The album is best summed up by the woozy, lo-fi exotica of closing track ‘Woodpecker’ — drifting sax versus some angry-sounding crows. Woodland Walk proves that, as Wilson says, “Music for children doesn’t have to be “written by idiots with no taste.”Joe Banks, Shindig
Included the album in his top 20 of 2016 albums.Simon Reynolds, Blissblog
“A peculiarly familiar 70’s nostalgia that immediately transports those of us of a certain vintage back to infant school, plasticine, spangles and Vision On / Magpie, a beautifully crafted treasure trove, composed, arranged and played so as to act as sensory stimulation for severely and profoundly disabled schoolchildren. Commissioned by portage in Newham, London, this charming slice of school craft invention gets a deserved wider audience courtesy of Patterned Air. Utilising an EMS VCS3, a Revox B77, reel-to-reel tape player along with a host of found classroom instruments and objects, CukoO crafts something wonderfully rustic. Particular note should be made of the playful courtship beaming from ‘pine cones’ where the kooky cuckoo call chirps affectionately to the rasping lull of the pine cone rubs or as on ‘conkers’ where for once matters take a more animated phrasing by way of the autumnal mistiness that descends over the pops and cracks of a bonfire night gathering and the crackle of a fire dance.”Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience
‘Relax’— 15/02/17. Nick Luscombe, BBC Radio 3 Late Junction
‘Woodpecker’— 05/01/17. Tom Ravenscroft, BBC 6Music (all 8 minutes!)
‘Relax’ — 19/11/16. Gideon Coe, BBC 6Music
‘Wind and Leaves’ — 01/11/16. Gideon Coe, BBC 6Music
‘Relax’ — 20/10/16. Gideon Coe, BBC 6Music (track 1 of the show’s regular ‘Dream Sequence’ segment)
‘Woodpecker’ — 20/10/16. Gideon Coe, BBC 6Music (track 2 of the show’s regular ‘Dream Sequence’ segment)
These works are beautiful examples of analogue electronic sounds balanced with traditional classroom instrumentation. So, sitting happily alongside an EMS VCS3 analogue synth, a Revox B77 reel-to-reel tape machine and various oscillators, we find sopranino and treble recorders, glockenspiel, clarinet, saxophone, bongos, acoustic guitar and all manner of other typically 1970’s music-classroom paraphernalia. And to this 70’s child, the music is redolent of those sunny, dusty music rooms, and nature walks through dank woods, the smell of crumbling corridors and daring adventures in the garden tangle
and unknown streets.