Max Cooper will release his highly anticipated debut album Human on FIELDS on 10 March 2014.
The album represents an explosive leap into the full-length format for an artist who previously preferred to work in miniature, in EPs that uniquely anchor lovingly crafted detail and cutting-edge production within a multitude of melodies, and a stubborn unwillingness to play the usual electronic music game of copy-me-if-you-can. There is warm analogue hardware buried alive under cold digital noise, and in Numb and Adrift, the stunning voice of Kathrin DeBoer of Belleruche offset by glitch, contemporary house and old school dub. There is also, in tracks like Potency and Seething, the combatitive grind that is tuned noise married to moments of pure beauty and trancendent repetition inspired by Cooper's heroes Philip Glass, Tim Hecker and Max Richter.
Written as a series of sketches, the album's concept was "never meant to be the focus", says Cooper. "I write in slow, hesitant steps, feeling my way forward, testing each element and polishing it in place. I'm not a trained musician, so I experiment. The power of music to me is in the boundaries, the changeovers between beautiful and strange, cold and emotional, smooth and rough. I never know where I'm going. For the album, I knew I wanted to work in a different way, but all I knew was that I wanted to explore those boundaries again."
Before he was a musician, Cooper was a genetics researcher at University College, London, his PhD just earned (you can look up his thesis on the Net, but don't expect to understand it). His day job didn't involve white coats, but dreaming up new computer simulations of life.
Human is Cooper's fever-dream exploration of the dualities within a life - nature versus nurture, emotional versus rational, and the internal person versus the larger society. It's the work of a watchful outsider in wide-screen observation mode, and an album whose structure builds in a way remiscent of life: your personality woven from your biological ancestry, but that biology makes death inevitable. Or, to put it another way, the album presents a life in three distinct, unpredictable sections, from the blank slate of Adrift in the first days of life to the melancholy optimism that others will continue when you're gone that is Daybreak.
The album, also, bears the rough fingerprints of what has influenced Cooper in the years before its release. A jobbing DJ and hip-hop turntablist 12 years ago, his first steps into music was a poor foreshadowing of the directions that his artistic curiousity would drag him. He's since scored videos for Zaha Hadid, one of the world's most famous contemporary architects; staged radical 4D sound shows in Amsterdam; and commissioned 21 animations on cultural and scientific topics to accompany his work.
Resident Advisor has three times named him one of their top DJs or live acts, while also comparing his work to Goreki and Glass, and Beatport has named him one of its top 10 artists of 2012. He's loving reworked several key players in the contemporary classic performance scene including Michael Nyman, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and Tom Hodge, as well as transforming the work of huge indie stars like Hot Chip, Au Revoir Simone, BRAIDS, and FC Kahuna's classic Hayling into downtempo, meditative masterpieces of glitch, beats and fragility.
The drama of writing Human, Cooper says, has been a lesson in learning new ways to communicate. It's an album meant for contemplative listening, privately in headphones - about as far from a collection of thrown-together dancefloor singles as an album can get. It's a murmured conversation where the artist reaches out to the listener to give them reassurance, comfort, and shock.