Max Cooper in Los Angeles

XLR8R offers some takeaways from the musician's five-hour live performance at Subtract Music.
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All photos by: Doriane Ray. Click a photo for gallery viewing.

To say that the past 10 years have been kind to Max Cooper would be an understatement. With three honors on Resident Advisor's list of best live acts in the past four years, an impressive debut album in Human(2014)—that managed to rein in tropes of techno, ambient, and IDM—and even a stint in academia that culminated in a computational biology doctorate, success has been Cooper's game since deciding to pursue music full-time. In retrospect of his impressive resume, the UK-based DJ-producer looks to expand his brand with a more-is-more attitude in all façets of presentation.

Cooper's achievements have been on XLR8R’s radar for years now, so when we were recently invited to attend his performance in Los Angeles, we jumped at the opportunity to check out Cooper for ourselves.

The event was hosted by rising underground promoter Subtract Music, which is spearheaded by LA-based DJ Anton Tumas and his perfectly tuned Danley Sound System. Subtract has built a solid reputation over the past year with various warehouse parties in the LA area and gatherings on the Long Beach Pier. With a series of successful events under their belt, featuring the likes of Sebastian Mullaert (a.k.a. Minilogue), DJ Tennis, and Bedouin, it comes as no surprise that they looked to tap Cooper for their latest venture. Subtract was able to find the ideal venue for the occasion: a converted industrial warehouse/loft in West LA that held 200 people, at the most. The intimacy of the setting not only allowed the Danley system to reach its optimal levels, but it also fostered a sense of community and sophistication not always found at underground parties in Los Angeles. We applaud Subtract for continuing to enhance the underground scene with excellent bookings, sound, and vibes.

As for Cooper's performance, results were mixed. His revamped set is a highly ambitious undertaking. To start, there's the set's staggering five-hour run time (6+ hours on other dates of his North American tour). Extended, night-long DJ sets have been an LA institution for decades, but in watching Cooper constantly clutch his headphones, not once relinquishing the decks for even a brief rest over the course of 5 hours, his skill, endurance, and commitment to his craft stood out. 

Musically, we were amazed at the range he displayed in his track selections. Throughout the course of the evening, driving techno thumpers melded with near-ambient tracks, only to be mangled at a moment's notice by the abrupt entry of distorted jungle breaks or quick outbursts of abrasive noise. The crowd went wild when melodic, ethereal soundscapes were quickly blended into heavy tech-house beats, but at other times they seemed dumbstruck and confused by the fusion of sounds—perhaps an indication of their desire for a more continuous, foundational groove.

The visuals of the performance, which were provided by Subtract's Michael Strauss, were stunning and synced perfectly with the mishmash of beats emanating from the Danley system. With swirling geometric shapes, psychedelic dreamscapes, and clouds of visualized data that pulsed in sync with kicks, the backdrop was a force to be reckoned with.

Altogether, the set was dramatic and absorbing; and despite the sometimes erratic track selections, Cooper displayed a musical dexterity and prowess only seen from top-notch electronic performers.