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
“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
EMERGENCE is an epic, operatic, ambitious amalgamation between audio-visual show, scientific research project, art installation and IDM record, the debut release on Max Cooper’s Mesh label and his second full-length release.
The record was conceived as a soundtrack to a new series of 11 pieces of video art, each exploring a different facet of the concept of ‘emergence’. The full A/V live show will premiere on the road with the Autumn dates below, including Mutek in Japan. Together the work is a marriage between the cosmic awe of a Carl Sagan film and the musical wonderment of Sigur Ros, made for meditating on the mystery of our emotional connection to fundamental natural form.
‘Waves’ is the first single to be lifted from Max Cooper’s second album ‘Emergence’.
Cooper collaborated with film composer Tom Hodge and vocalist Kathrin deBoer to put together a rich piece of music that incorporates post-rock, Warp-y brain-dance, hi-def digital techno and shimmering neo-classical. Few musicians are as qualified as Max to tackle as profound an idea as ‘emergence’ through electronic music. EMERGENCE is the story of the development of the universe, the way in which, very complex things like human beings where created from the immaterial by the action of simple laws.
Max received a Ph.D 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. To this end he collaborated with artists Andy Lomas, Nick Cobby and Henning M Lederer plus mathematician Dugan Hammock from the University of Massachusetts. In each chapter of the AV, the focus is on the beauty of the natural laws and processes in operation, with a mixture of real data visualisation and films. It interprets the deep structures and principles that give rise to the familiar physical universe, such as symmetries, the distribution of the primes, waves, spatial dimensionality, and the action of the physical forces on matter. Later films tackle the emergence of biological forms, thought and eventually a darker turn into the structures and systems of human civilisation.
Max has synthesised his skill as a producer and his deep interests in science to create a Hadron Collider-grade ambient techno world, in the lineage of The Future Sounds of London’s ‘Lifeforms’ for 2016. It’s also one of the most beautiful records you’ll hear all year.
1. Symmetry (with Tom Hodge)
2. Seed (feat. Kathrin deBoer)
4. Distant Light
5. Myth (with Tom Hodge)
6. Order From Chaos
8. Impermanence (feat. Kathrin deBoer)
9. Trust (with Tom Hodge feat. Kathrin DeBoer)