For fans of Jon Hopkins, Rival Consoles and Nils Frahm, Max Cooper makes cinematic, emotion-filled electronic music which combines classical and IDM styles. Before becoming a full-time musician, Cooper was a genetics researcher at UCL, where he spent his time dreaming up new computer simulations of life. Not much, actually, has changed. Exploring the symbiosis of art and science, his music seeks to represent the complexities of existence, and to marvel at its beauty. Epitomising this nuanced approach to music-making is his latest album, One Hundred Billion Sparks. This will provide the focus of his upcoming, ultra-immersive audio-visual show at Gorilla.
Born and raised in Belfast, Max Cooper carved out his unique style whilst lovingly crafting his early EP’s. This style is predicated on the contrast between complexity and simplicity – he pairs crystalline, microscopic sounds with sweeping, ambient textures. Human (2013), his first album, exemplifies this. Exploring the dualities within a life (nature vs nurture, emotions vs rationality), the record is a pretty amazing debut whose strengths lie in Cooper’s penchant for tension-building. The track ‘Seething’ is one of many highlights, contrasting glitchy and aggressive IDM with transcendent moments of beauty. ‘Numb’ is similarly great, encasing warm analogue synth ostinatos in cold digital distortions. Imagine a Prophet 6 being played inside a Faraday cage.
Album number two, Emergence (2016), saw Cooper again pair grandiose atmospheres with intricate detail. The Four Tet-esque broken beat of ‘Order From Chaos’ is particularly good, as is the twin punch of dancefloor-leaning IDM tracks ‘Waves’ and ‘Distant Light’. With the album being all about evolution, Cooper saw an opportunity to create some awe-inspiring audio-visual shows to support the release. These told the story of our universe, from pre-big bang to future, with each chapter a collaboration with a different visual artist, including some collaborations with mathematicians and scientists which employed real data visualisation.
With Emergence looking decidedly outward, album number three was an opportunity for Cooper to look inward. 2018’s One Hundred Billion Sparks saw him searching for artistry among the mechanisms, emotions and constructs which yield our identity and experience. Conceptualised during a month-long period of imposed isolation – no internet, no phone, no human contact – the album charts Cooper’s exploration of his own identity. The result, predictably, is pretty beautiful. The mind-massaging ‘Hope’ is among the best tracks, offering up a cosmic journey whose ebbs and flows draw you in and refuse to let go. The gloriously dark, Daniel Avery-esque ‘Identity’ is also great, as is the subtly beautiful ‘Love Song’.
Since the release of that album, Cooper has been touring a 270 immersive audio-visual show which employs the roof and walls to envelop the audience in his world of visuals. According to the man himself, it’s his most ambitious live show so far, and according to critics, it’s something that all Max Cooper fans need to see. We can’t wait to catch it at Gorilla!