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

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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