Max Cooper is already having a great year. Fresh from the success of his multi-media Emergence album and tour, he’s released his first mix compilation, Balance 30, and contributed a remix to one of the year’s finest albums, Floex and Tom Hodge’s A Portrait of John Doe. Now he’s preparing to release his third album and to begin yet another tour.
Cooper’s work is intended to be enjoyed on multiple levels. Two Cooper collaborations appeared our our list of 2017’s Best Videos, and earlier this season Thomas Vanz’ rendition of the first single, “Hope,” was unveiled. The science fiction aspect of the imagery is revealed to be pure science in the final image, while highlighting the title of the album, which refers to the number of neurons inside the brain. The video version, like many of its predecessors, is a touch shorter than that on the album; consider the additional music a bonus. Each of the album’s twelve tracks will eventually be paired with a visual component, unveiled in turn as the music makes its public debut.
But there’s also a message in the music. Known for his mastery of technology, Cooper went against the grain by detaching from all human contact ~ including email and all social media ~ for a month. His inner journey is conveyed through these tracks along with a sense of connection with both planet and people. Ironically, his detachment highlighted the need for true relationships. His new appreciation is honored here in compositions that are in turn calming and motivational.
While an electronic pulse is typically present, so is a sense of grounding. In “Phi,” certain elements stay the same throughout while others remain in flux ~ an honest reflection of existence. An emphasis on musical patterns (static or charged) reflects the search for correlating patterns in life, from scientific principles to behavioral habits. Cooper seeks to understand the world by first understanding himself, stripping everything down, then building on the template.
The tempo increases late in the album with “Platonic” and “Identity,” the latter a slight departure for Cooper as he heads into territory normally occupied by The Orb. The second half of this track and the whole of “Reflex” reveal a slightly darker edge, important for such an upbeat album as it reveals the struggle behind the hope. The album’s closing piece, “Memories,” drops the drums and sails toward transcendence, reflecting a realistic, hard-won inner peace. The notes provide the bread crumbs that others might follow. (Richard Allen)