Famed electronic producer Max Cooper has over two dozen releases to his credit, so it’s a surprise to learn that Human is his first album. With so many records to pluck from, one would expect this to be a compilation, but it’s not; a few favorites are included, but the bulk of these are brand new. Call it what you will: a sign of generosity, a prolific mind, creative confidence. The key is, it works. All manner of electronic music is represented here, from straight-up techno to glitch to piano-pinned (a nod to Cooper’s collaboration with Tom Hodge, Fragmented Self). The richness of timbres is augmented by production that is simultaneously crisp and smooth, which is no surprise considering the source. It all adds up to an early year triumph that is certain to make waves in the electronic field, while launching at least a few singles.
The first of these singles is “Adrift”, featuring Kathrin deBoer of Bellarive. “Will you hear me out? Will you help me out from here?” her plaintive voice sings, recalling the sweet and sultry voices of the trip-hop era, especially Lamb’s Louise Barlow. The association is cemented on Raffertie’s chilled remix, found on the 12″. But the original is difficult to top, beginning in soft piano, drenched in both steady and wandering beats, building to a field of wordless vocalizations. deBoer also appears here on “Numb”, splitting the difference between the longer and shorter versions found on the Conditions Two single, while Braids appears on “Automaton” from Conditions One.
Second single “Impacts” reflects its title throughout; the percussion-heavy piece sounds like a lost era track from Front 242, while honoring the four beat breakdown of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. In terms of newer associations, one immediately thinks of Factory Floor, and lo, Factory Floor is indeed one of the remixers, along with Perc. The former goes the techno route, while the latter takes the industrial. But in terms of hard club impact, the original is still the go-to version.
The other new tracks expand our appreciation of the artist, whose earlier career was in the field of genetic research. One might argue that these tracks are an extension of that career, as they delve into the DNA of electronic music, with an ear to identifying the line between human and artificial (thus the title). One cannot help but think that the title is also a nod to The Human League’s song of the same name. Many of the later tracks avoid the dance floor entirely, concentrating instead on texture and mood. This results in a much richer album, and launches the idea that Cooper may be able to move into the field of film work with nary a blip (pun intended). But if he wishes to stay in the electronic arena, we’re not going to protest; we expect we’ll enjoy whatever he releases. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 10 March
Available on iTunes!