SEE: Max Cooper – ‘Swarm’: infectious IDM with an environmental edge

Max Cooper

FOR me, Max Cooper has been one of those people whose tracks come on during Mary Anne Hobbs’ 6Music show in the car, and I think: “Wow, what was that?,” scrabbling to commit the name and the textual virtuosity to memory.

But this time I won’t be tripped up: “Swarm” is the first track from his soon-coming Earth EP, which is firmly lodged on the to-acquire list.

He’s circled back into IDM after last year’s neo-classical two-hander with Bruce Brubaker, Glassforms. And “Swarm” is a beautiful, bold layering. 

It comes in on a fizz of glitch, before ringing into a gamelan-like trill of bells. The flow of the bells becomes underpinned by clicking and chattering rhythmic punctuation, all a-chatter with itself. There’s a bass drum, which invents itself mid-bar, for safe rhythmic haven. And it builds and weaves and swoops and becomes this complex, irresistible thing: real proper head listening. 

And it has an accompanying short film – and here’s the thing: approach this from the aural angle as the lead track of the EP and you have a piece of music with real integrity. Yet it was actually written to score the accompanying footage, put together by Sligo’s Kevin and Páraic McGloughlin, in a reversal of the usual commissioning flow. And this, drawing on a tradition featuring people such as Philip Glass and Edward Burtynsky, lofts us through mountains and scapes and also the quickly saccading patterns and streets and housing estates – our hives, where we swarm.

Every click and beat is perfectly matched, one seeming to trigger the other as the song hums and clouds and searches.

If “Swarm” is a litmus test, then Earth really will justify the I in IDM: it takes the polyrhythmic layering of Aphex, and replaces some of paradigm-shifting Cornovian eccentricity with infectiousness; adds some of Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet, maybe even a little of Cecile Schott’s Colleen.

 Tracks will be released digitally ahead of the full vinyl release in mid-August, which is available for pre-order at Bandcamp; oh, did I not mention – each track also comes accompanied by its own heavyweight artists’ paper print of a leaf skeleton, which may also be obtained from his store, above. They’re very pretty and well-executed things.

Make no mistake, Max Cooper is engaged with art as a form on a multiplicity of levels. As a culture and a collective consciousness, we could do with more of this.

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