Review: One Hundred Billion Sparks

November 14, 2018

In the late 2010s, the art of DJing has become much more than what the stigma dictates: someone simply pressing the “play” button on a colourful machine. While this practice is still performed by some, others have developed onto a more sophisticated style of composition. One of those is Max Cooper, a natural talent at deepening the dimensions of electronic music. His latest album, One Hundred Billion Sparks (september 2018), forms another highlight in the young Scot’s impressive repertoire. 

 

                        [ Max Cooper - Rule 110 ] 

 

The record opens with Incompleteness, bringing about a cloudy sound so delicate that it generates a near-religious vibe. After this soundtrack straight from the gates of heaven, Hope builds on this hazy waveform yet adds a cymbal- and bass-driven tension to it. Then comes Phi. Phi is the kind of track whereby Max Cooper shows his skill both as a electro-acoustic engineer and as sonorous storyteller. The drop, if we may call it that, comes completely out of the blue at 02:46 but nonetheless arouses a sense of sheer ecstasy. It is a calm and controlled constant release of tension that lingers on throughout the song.

 

What follows could well pass for the album’s highlight: Rule 110. These four and a half minutes will have you wonder wether you were daydreaming all along. Drawing on a similar kind of tension and release as in Phi, it adds an uplifting rhythmic component that consistently runs through what passes for the musical metaphor of shooting stars. 

 

                        [ Max Cooper - Platonic ] 

 

Reciprocity begins with an absurd abundance of dissonant bleeps and hums foreshadowing Emptyset, which sounds like a colloquial dialogue between Max and a friendly alien. While Volition then takes you back to that drowsy in between limbo and life, Platonic gives you spin in the washing machine, your head still attached to the earplugs you left in your back pocket. It is, next to Rule 110, one of those idiosyncratic high-energy/calm-minded tracks of the album.

 

From here on Cooper gets to his darker techno side with Identity as characteristic of his traits. Reflex forms a 5-minute build up to Lovesong, which, in the context of this build-up, seems a bit out of place. It fits well with the kind of “late night study session” livestreams you’ll find on YouTube, but it definitely is the odd one out on the album. The album's closing ceremony, Memories, is another ambient soundscape that envelopes you in a mist of nostalgia, perhaps to the previous hour of dreamy music. 

 

                        [ Max Cooper - Lovesong ] 

 

With One Hundred Billion Sparks, Max Cooper once again found a way to express his talent as a musician. Much more than that, he already mesmerised the Bravo stage at this year’s Lowlands Festival and gave a stunning show at Melkweg, previewing this (back then) unreleased material. Needless to say, Max is one to keep an eye (and an ear) on, whether on record or in the club.

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