Max Cooper announces new album Unspoken Words, released 25th March on Mesh. Today he shares lead single “Everything” and its accompanying video. “Everything” is an excitable expression of freedom and joy, an explosion of colour referencing classic synth sounds from Max Cooper’s formative years and the golden era of idealism in music and popular culture of the ’80 and ’90s.“I love feeling that anything is possible. It feels like I’m bursting and need to find some expression,” says Cooper. “The synths seemed to carry the hope of everything I could imagine, condensed into the simple chord progression, improvised pads and layers of distortion. It was a lot of fun to work with, and spending time in that creative mindset generated lots of ideas which could be shot down later under less manic conditions.”
As an audio-visual artist, Cooper often goes to the medium of video to enhance his music and the ideas and stories which inspire and inform his work. “Everything” is one of 13 short films combined into Unspoken Words and the metanarrative which will be released as a film on Blu-ray to accompany the album on 25th March. Cooper developed the visual story for ‘Everything’ with long term collaborator Nick Cobby and photographer Andrey Prokhorov, who has a huge library of imagery from around the world.
“I’ve always struggled with words.Trying to communicate anything meaningful about my internal state, in any way which seems to do it justice, has always been beyond me. But music bypasses language. It is my means of expression, which is why I make a lot of it – I’m compelled to create.” – Max Cooper, January 2022
Unspoken Words is Max Cooper’s most revealing work to date, leading the listener through experiences of escapism and connection with personal stories of reflection, acceptance, grappling, idealism and rejection. The raw expression of Cooper’s own mental state illuminates the universal experience of being human. Unspoken Words offers common ground, a unifying space for anyone who faces internal discordance and feels the need for greater connection and greater expression. Speaking about the process of writing Unspoken Words, Max continued: “I find existing inside my mind to be a sometimes beautiful, sometimes intense, sometimes abrasive, messy, baffling, relentless experience, and I’ve tried to put as much of that feeling and form as I could into the album.”
Max Cooper returns to the core of his art with Earth – a four track EP including latest singles, ‘Reflect’ and ‘Swarm’.
Earth is a collection of beautiful, intricately scored electronic pieces accompanied with short films visualising epic scale earthly processes, human growth, storm surges, evolving ice formations and ballooning cityscapes.
Full of humanity, playfulness and powerful emerging intensity, the tracklist features layer after layer of otherworldly synthesis, harmony, clicks, fuzz and micro-rhythm. It’s music for those seeking emotional connection, as much as audiophiles and late night dark rooms, full of 3-dimensional binaural sound whizzing past your ears and around your head as constant low end harmonies wrap you inside a warm audio bath.
Max said of the latest single, ‘Reflect’:
“I began working on this new piece of music at the start of the lockdown period when everything was brought under inspection for all of us. And as often is the case, my writing process became a sort of balance against a troubled time. There’s something about focusing on a simple chord progression and the feeling it contains which often puts things into perspective for me.”
The video for ‘Reflect’ is a story of ice and reflections in collaboration with the visual artist Jip Mus. It ties the personal reflections of the music and the environmental themes of the EP to those of ice and its role in reflecting light from the sun – an idea conceived by Jip Mus, drawing on his visits to Svalbard, Norway, and imagery of ice crystal formations from Wenting Zhu’s research lab. A fusion of micro and macro, and a story of small things with large effects.
Following from recent contemporary classical album ‘Glassforms’ of reinterpreting Philip Glass scores with acclaimed pianist Bruce Brubaker, and his drum and bass remix of Henry Green, this EP exhibits the breadth of Cooper’s musical range.
For the first time in his career, Max has pushed the boundaries of his DIY-approach to making and releasing his work by creating the artwork for this EP, which features high-definition photographs of complex leaf vein structures. This series of images adorn the vinyl package, and are available as a series of limited edition giclée prints, printed on 300gsm minuet cotton rag using archival inks.
Become surrounded in a world of 3D audio, or is it 8D?
Max Cooper rises to the challenge to correct the recent interest in ‘8D audio’, which is a name that has been given to a single audio track sent through a binaural panner. There aren’t really 8 dimensions, it’s a 3D experience, but it is a special audio experience, worthy of our attention.
The binaural recording technique was invented in the 50’s – sound is recorded from inside a fake head, in order to capture the subtle signals of how sound interacts with the head and ears, and is fractionally delayed between the two ear drums depending on its position. These subtle signals are interpreted by our brains to give information about the sound environment around us, which we experience as a 3D immersive sound world.
The 3D Reworks EP comprises 4 tracks with a complete binaural focus, it is immersive headphone listening at its most powerful. It is available for free download/pay what you want from Bandcamp for one week only.
“Binaural panning is a technique I have been using in my music for many years, as have many musicians since the 50’s. But it only works if you listen with headphones, otherwise the left and right signals get mixed up and we can’t subconsciously interpret them as clearly, so the effect is mostly lost. That’s why people don’t usually make entire piece of music in this format.
Now that we’re all at home isolating during the coronavirus epidemic, and with renewed interest in spatial audio, it seemed like a great time for some headphone experiments.
In the 90’s the simulated version of this binaural recording technique was developed – the “head related transfer function” (HRTF). This is what you hear in your “8D” clips, but I wasn’t content with the level of spatial richness, it was just a single source, not very interesting, so I thought I’d experiment with a fully 3D binaural audio world where there are many binaural parts interacting, and all sounds are presented in this format.
It’s not a replacement for the usual optimised stereo (plus some binaural) format, but I love surround sound and there is a lot more room for binaural development, so I thought it would be nice to make a release series around.
We’re such a visually focused society, but actually a lot of our experience of our surroundings comes from audio cues. This form of music tinkers with that part of our awareness.”
This collection of 3D Reworks features music previously released on Mesh:
Penrose Tiling (Yearning for the Infinite [MESH025])
Resynthesis (World Passing By [MESH004])
Veil of Time (World Passing By [MESH004])
Repetition (feat. James Yorkston) (adapted from Yearning for the Infinite [MESH025])
Artwork by Tyler Hobbs.
Yearning for the Infinite is Max Cooper’s most expansive project to date – an audio/visual rendering of our obsession with the unobtainable. Presented as both an album scored to a visual story and a mind-blowing immersive audio/visual live show, Yearning for the Infinite was borne out of a commission from the Barbican, the arts and learning centre dedicated to pushing boundaries.
Using vast new visualisations of the infinite drawn from the history of its appearances in the arts and sciences, he explores the link between human nature and the unbounded. Our evolving desires set just out of reach, as an unshakable source of meaning in our lives.
“We are rats in the wheel, imprisoned by our nature to endlessly pursue. But the view of the essence of this process as a whole, is a beautiful thing.” – Max Cooper
Sonically, the album merges Max’s affinity for rich harmony and spatial manipulation with sweeping acoustics and subtly evolving motifs. Vast textures are offset against microscopic drum patterns whilst floating through endless caverns and limitless skies.
Yearning for the Infinite is an album which provides both a strikingly original listen and a rare insight into Max’s creative process. Tasked with translating such an immense concept to a live performance, each track on the album is carefully mapped out to support the narrative, but never loses sight of Max’s characteristic love for experimentation and immersive harmony. As such, it is equally effective as a stand-alone work.
Visually, the live project documents forms of the infinite set against their role in the human condition. Abstract visualisations are presented amongst human stories of yearning and endless pursuit. As always with Max’s work, the tension between the abstract, scientific and computational worlds of electronic music and visualisation work alongside an inherent thread of human emotion.
Yearning For The Infinite is a generous listen, addressing a collective sense of uncertainty by exploring the pleasures of the infinite. It’s also one of Max’s most sonically diverse releases to date.
“It was a really interesting challenge to take on, the commission for the project came from the Barbican, and they wanted a new audiovisual show built around their emergent technologies theme for the year, ‘Life Rewired’. I wanted to take the whole idea of human progress, growth in technology and the data explosion etc, and boil it down to its essence, our seemingly endless desire to move forwards somehow, as individuals and as a species. Our yearning for the infinite as a system for creating goals that can never be
reached, as a means for creating an endless source of meaning in our lives, because what would you do if you had nothing left to do!?
That human idea was complemented with some beautiful and intense audio/visual options for presenting the infinite more technically – the bright white light of Kabbalah, the development of parallax in the arts, the madness of Cantor’s nested infinities, the processes of growth and division, the seemingly endless space of the multiverse, aperiodic tiling and non-repeating systems, the infinitude of irrational numbers and the circle, it was a rich grounds for content!
Initially I set about writing up all the ideas and chatting to visual artists about how to turn them into a reality. Then I started on the music, scoring each piece to a particular visual story. I wanted to bring ideas of the infinite into the production process too, so I approached the music in a new way, relying heavily on live improvisation sessions and going a bit mad on the infinite layering, and feedback systems. It all got quite out of hand with more than 200 layers of audio and much generative chaos on some pieces, which
was a massive headache to work with, but a good challenge to take on to try and deliver the idea.”
Chris Sharp, Barbican Contemporary Music Programmer:
“When you commission a new piece of work you never quite know what you’re going to get – but the music that Max has created for Yearning for the Infinite has outstripped all my expectations. He’s assembled a vast array of perfectly-machined components into a single, grand, architectural sweep – structurally rigorous but shot through with emotion and imagination. I can’t wait to hear it live.”
Release date: 07 November 2019
01. Let There Be
03. Parting Ways
04. Perpetual Motion
07. Scalar (feat. Alison Moyet)
08. Nanotech (feat. Wilderthorn)
09. Penrose Tiling
10. Transcendental Tree Map
13. A Fleeting Life (feat. James Yorkston)
14. In Pursuit of Ghosts
Max Cooper – One Hundred Billion Sparks
Label: Mesh – MESH014V
Released: 20 Sep 2018
Style: Techno, Ambient
“We are one hundred billion sparks. One hundred billion neurons whose firing creates feelings and ideas. One hundred billion neurons that make us all different yet connected.”
After spending a month in complete isolation at a remote cottage in Wales, Max Cooper presents ‘One Hundred Billion Sparks’, his third studio album, in which he interrogates notions of identity whilst profiling the complex mechanisms that make us all wonderfully unique.
“For me personally, the foundations of nature, in the broadest sense (including us), carry the most beauty and maddening incomprehensibility. The more something is distilled, the more its beauty is crystallised. That is why I am compelled to look for foundations as a general approach.”
His previous album ‘Emergence’ applied this reasoning outwards but for ‘One Hundred Billion Sparks’ he applied it inwards. Conceptualised during a period of intense isolation, the album searches for artistry amongst the mechanisms, emotions and constructs which yield our identity and experience.
“‘One Hundred Billion Sparks’ is my attempt to express what was there after I had removed my everyday life. No phone calls, no emails, no messages, no human contact or conversation for a month, that was the idea.What I found were the fables we live inside, our constructs, the mechanisms which create them, and the experience of parsing them.”
It is a project that can be appreciated both for its complex groundings and beautiful simplicity in equal measure. Pairing crystalline, microscopic sound with sweeping ambience and immersive textures, Max refines his signature sound across a range of tempos. Retaining the duality for which his work is now known for, extensively detailed tracks are bound together by affecting harmonies and driven forward by focused drum patterns in tracks like ‘Hope’. Whilst the sound palette is unmistakably his, the album sees him experimenting with new styles, as highlighted in the industrial swarm of ‘Reflex’, the dubby minimalism of ‘Identity’ or the post pop choppy vocals of ‘Rule 110’.
Every piece of music on the album is a score to the visual story underpinning the project. Each chapter conceived in both musical and visual form from the outset, and carried forward as collaborations with visual artists. These chapters are explained in detail on an accompanying website which will be released alongside the album. On his process, Max explains: “Nature is like art – full of structure, complexity, paradox and many other things which invoke awe, beauty, peace, confusion, frustration and feeling.That is why I involve scientific ideas in my projects; they are a rich source of aesthetic and feeling.”
As one of the leading artists exploring the intersection of music, science, art and technology, Max Cooper has sustained a reputation for providing insightful projects via sound, visuals and immersive installations. ‘One Hundred Billion Sparks’ advances that reputation, with an artistic exploration of ideas communicating the marvel of our existence.
Max Cooper will be going on tour to showcase his new album with stops at Melkweg in Amsterdam, Koko in London, Gaîté Lyrique in Paris, AB in Brussels, Funkhaus in Berlin and more.
Stream/buy Hope and pre-order One Hundred Billion Sparks here.
date: 20th September 2018
04. Rule 110
‘…as with many of my projects, the natural world and its structures supply all the art and inspiration needed’
Max Cooper returns with another release exploring the intersection of science, music and art. The ‘World Passing By’ EP features 4 new tracks accompanied by a visual representation of his conceptually driven work.
For this project, Max was influenced by varying interpretations of time. On the inspiration behind the EP he says:
‘I wondered if our experience of time could be explained…where time is just a physical dimension into which things grow, with us experiencing now as the cusp of the inflation’
The visual and musical ideas both stemmed from train journeys, and were then run through studio hardware to form each track, and a collaboration with Kevin McGloughlin to create a video representation of his work that will feature in Max’s live show.
The opening track ‘Veil Of Time’ uses ambient chord progressions as a commentary on the dampening inescapability of time, whilst ‘Resynthesis’ opts for a more rhythmic exploration using classic retro synthesis sound design. ‘Stacked Moments’ addresses the notion of the present as the surface of a growing structure, with a textural chord sound providing the basis for new elements to wander. Finally, ‘Corporeal’ is a collaboration with Rob Clouth heard previously on Max’s Essential Mix in which a synth is run through a radio transmitter, creating distortion and flecks to alter the main chord sequence.
Find out more about Max’s current tour here.
24 November 2017 / Mesh
01. Veil Of Time
03. Stacked Moments
Max Cooper presents 3 new visual collaborations for tracks taken from his new ‘Chromos EP’.
This project began with a chat to a scientist at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, Mikhail Spivakov. His work is related to my old area of research, and he had the idea that maybe I could use some of their data to create a piece of music. So I travelled up to Cambridge to meet him and the rest of his lab group, and their collaborators, to talk about what they are doing there, and think about how it could translate to a music/visual project. We decided to focus on their research on chromosomal conformation capture, which experimentally detects points of contact between chromosomes (long strings of DNA), and then employs computational models of folding, to predict how the chromosomes are packaged up in a complex tangled bundle of strings. This process of simulated folding to create our best guess of real chromosome structure is a beautiful process, so this beauty became the focus of the project.
Coils Of Living Synthesis
This is the second of two pieces built around a collaborative project between myself, Andy Lomas, and researchers from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge – Mikhail Spivakov, Peter Fraser and Csilla Varnai. Andy built a system in Unreal to map their data on DNA structure, to a visual simulation, which output footage Jennifer Tividad has used to create this video.
This music and video project came from a collaboration with a mathematical artist who works under the name Cornus Ammonis. He creates simulations of pattern formation, using ideas originally created by Alan Turing in his attempts to explain and model the mathematics of living systems. These systems create beautiful warping interacting layers of simulated substances, and we thought this visual effect could lend itself well to an imagined alien planetary surface with some unknown form of geological process – molten landscapes.
In November last year, Max Cooper released EMERGENCE; an epic, operatic, amalgamation between an audio-visual show, scientific research project, art installation and IDM record. EMERGENCE is the story of the development of the universe, the way in which, very complex things like human beings were created from the immaterial by the action of simple laws.
The soundtrack included 11 videos on the subject of EMERGENCE. Together the work brought together the cosmic awe of a Carl Sagan film and the musical wonderment of Sigur Ros, made for meditating on the mystery of the universe.
Now in 2017, Max is releasing an album of remixes by friends and other artists he admires. He’ll be releasing a DJ friendly 12” vinyl with 6 remixes on, and a new digital album with the full suite of 10 remixes. It takes the LP from an incredible home listening experience and onto the dance floor. At the same time, REMIXED is a coherent album in its own right. On the 12” will be the remixes from Vessels, Rival Consoles, Tom Hodge, Kimyan Law, Christian Löffler and Ash Koosha. Meanwhile, the full digital LP also has remixes from Patrice Bäumel, Joe Farr, John Tejada and Hidden Orchestra.
Max received a PhD in computational biology in 2008 with research on the evolution of gene regulatory networks and was a geneticist at UCL before he switched to music. The complimentary remix album takes his original vision and reimagines it in various ambient, drum and bass and techno forms. Some like Christian Löffler, Erased Tapes artist Rival Consoles and contemporary classical musician Tom Hodge are right for headphones while former Trouw resident Patrice Bäumel and Kompakt’s John Tejada turn in fine techno dance floor versions.
Max Cooper’s EMERGENCE was a deep dreaming techno record in the lineage of The Future Sounds of London’s ‘Lifeforms’ and one of the most beautiful records you’ll hear all year. The remix record reimagines it once again.
Find Max Cooper’s Emergence tour dates here.
Released on March 31st 2017
01 Trust feat.Tom Hodge & Kathrin deBoer (Christian Löffler Remix)
02 Cyclic (Tom Hodge Remix)
03 Distant Light (Rival Consoles Remix)
04 Symmetry feat.Tom Hodge (Vessels Remix)
05 Trust feat.Tom Hodge & Kathrin deBoer (Kimyan Law Remix)
06 Organa (Patrice Bäumel Remix)
07 Seed feat. Kathrin deBoer (Ash Koosha Remix)
08 Panned (Joe Farr Remix)
09 Cyclic (John Tejada Remix)
10 Symmetry feat.Tom Hodge (Hidden Orchestra Remix)
Max Cooper shares the official video for ‘Trust’, featuring Kathrin deBoer. Taken from LP ‘EMERGENCE’. Directed by RC Aksun.
Now time for something totally different! With the Emergence project, I set out to work with different video artists for each chapter of the story, so that it could be varied and stay fresh throughout a 90 minute live show, while still following a single narrative.
For this music video, I found an amazing artist called RC Aksun who specialised in comic-style animations full of hidden meaning and political messages – this seemed fitting for the part of the story where humans had arrived and had started to establish complex societal structures.
The video brief was to focus on the emergence of altruism, and Cenk came up with the interesting idea of transposing this from a pre-human evolutionary process, to a future emergence of altruism in robots. This opened the door for some additional scorched world and warring political system narratives, which fit in well with the generally darker themes in the other videos upon the arrival of complex human society. I’m not a pessimist though, things do eventually get better in the overall Emergence story, it just happens when humans and society as we know it have transitioned to a new state.
Cenk really went to town on the animation work and detailing on this, I have to say a massive thank you to him for the time he put in, which is pretty obvious watching the video, which has been hand-crafted from the bottom up. It’s very different to all the other videos in Emergence, in that it’s a more traditional self-contained story than the others, so I hope it will appeal to those of you who aren’t so into the more abstracted parts of the project, and give the whole thing some better context in explaining how all the different videos link together – starting from abstract natural laws and structures, the physical world, stars, planets, black holes, then earth, protolife and evolution, cellular forms, complex life and eventually early humans, then going into societal structures and complex human systems, then the information age, technology, and eventually the future and dissolution of humans as we know them going into the unbounded ending.