There is a grand concept behind Max Cooper’s second full length album, Emergence, which is a sonic accompaniment to his latest and most ambitious A/V show. That show is about “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.” It draws on scientific research, data representation, sound design, film and other disciplines from his own hugely academic background (the Belfast man has a PhD in computational biology and worked as a geneticist at UCL), but importantly in this context, it also works as a standalone album.
Even without the backstory, you very much get the sense when listening to Emergence that you are tapped into a story of evolution. It’s masterfully clean and crisp throughout, and is filled with the sort of grandiose atmospheres that soundtrack cerebral documentaries about space and the natural world. In that way, it is best given your full attention on headphones, or in a dark, quiet room. It is then that the HD sound design, almost mathematical arrangements and impressively pristine digital nature of the music really makes most sense.
Obvious reference points are IDM and Warp, but there is also an element of Nils Frahm’s Nonkeen project on R&S because of the way wiry electronics and fuzzy synths are paired with plaintive pianos. Save for the glassy broken beats of early era Four Tet cut "Order From Chaos," or the broody techno turbulence of "Cyclic," most tracks are pieces of exquisite sound design. Reflective keys or frosted pads, refracted vocals or painstakingly perfect synthetic textures are allowed to linger and leave their mark in wide open spaces. Giving sounds such time and room to sink in means things always feel poignant and meaningful; you cannot help but get dragged into your own headspace.
Because it is so serious and pensive, this is not the sort of album you would stick on at any old time. But it is exactly that very specific and awe-inspiring nature of Emergence which makes it so interesting.
01. Symmetry (with Tom Hodge)
02. Seed (feat. Kathrin deBoer)
04. Distant Light
05. Myth (with Tom Hodge)
06. Order From Chaos
08. Impermanence (feat. Kathrin deBoer)
09. Trust (with Tom Hodge feat. Kathrin DeBoer)
Emergence will hit stores November 25. Pre-order it here now.