Max Cooper

Glasswerk @ Grand Central Hall 3/7/21

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Our eyes face forward. Two translucent vanilla canvases (one in front and one behind) stretch themselves wide. MAX COOPER is nested in between them, his head illuminated with laptop light. Darkened figures sit two by two on the marked fold-out seats around the hall of this former Methodist church. A gentle tide of ambience laps our solitary shores as cream and blue coloured air pockets bubble and merge across the screens. As images are traded between them, the projected light draws straight dimensions around Cooper’s desk enclosing him. The first round of applause: and now he’s hidden.

Cooper has orbited around abstract themes for some time. His PhD in computational biology a blueprint for his approach to music: methodical and structured – personal experiments conducted onstage with AV apparatus.

Patterns keep transforming over beats with an ancient sensibility, an Aphex-like detachment which soothes anticipation, and the screens unveil a stack of images dissolving to reveal the next. Masks unveil masks in a feedback loop or a microcosmic flow chart: a rabbit hole into Euclidian space and its haunting fractals. The beat spurs ahead.

Each performance is designed to echo similarities with the others, more like vignettes from a series than chapters of a story. Now, riding the troughs and peaks, other faces look like they could be expecting a flare or switch up. As serene visuals float onscreen, pinballing pulses glide across a softer four on the floor beat. As it picks up there are claps of encouragement, but I’m fading out; what’s intentionally cyclical and repetitive is turning stale. Maybe I expected too much.

What we get is a palette of sensory textures, a wider array of visual ones than sonic. The music grows from ambient landscapes to more driving, mechanical, first-person propulsions but both sides employ variations of formulae as they near their respective ends, not that this audience seems fazed. One member stands up to enjoy a solitary but spirited pogo (take your opportunities where you find them).

An anthology tied together by ideas of the subliminal rhythms and patterns that occur across biology, mathematics, art and design; it culminates in one large cycle of movement. It’s an attempt to represent the simultaneously occurring movements and cycles that happen quicker than can be comprehended: death, rebirth, ageing and transformation. For fans, this is a great show – enough of them here have snatched a video for their memories – for the uninitiated though, it could turn tedious.

But then… there are these scattered points of total harmony. Moments when the spectral sound echoing through the church chamber encircles you, ropes you back into the moment, emanating not from the speakers anymore but the hall itself; walls and objects harmonise as select frequencies find their place to sing. Was this planned? We’ll never know as our conductor-conduit vanishes under the last round of applause, leaving to draw more schematics of his universe.

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