For all that we've learned of it, the universe remains a mystery — and there can be a comfort in that unknowing. Electronic producer Max Cooper's Emergence explores how humanity came from nothing in an album that graces minimal techno, frostbitten ambient and emotionally-driven IDM. It's great on a pair of headphones, but if you have a chance to see Cooper live, the visuals that accompany his performance are enveloping, charting evolution in abstract landscapes and repeating shapes.
Featuring the sustained piano murmurings of Tom Hodge, "Myth" is among the album's most formless tracks, with sound design so rich that it melts into your ears. Think of Harold Budd and Brian Eno's ambient masterpiece The Pearl, stretched deep and twinkling. In a video, the Berlin-based Susi Sie straddles science and art: "I created constantly changing patterns by exploring the reactions of diverse liquid mixtures," she tells NPR. The red, white and black liquids move like impossible waves, curving landscapes still forming. Turn out the lights and go full-screen on this one.
Cooper details the album's concept and the visual's attempt at a black hole:
"This is a collaborative piece of music with the pianist Tom Hodge, with a video created by Susi Sie. It forms part of the Emergence LP and visual show. The Emergence story is built around the idea of natural laws which give rise to the world we live in. This particular chapter of the story delves into the ineffable side of the process of emergence and the almost mythical nature of some areas of science.
"Scientific ideas should be falsifiable and demonstrable irrespective of who is performing the tests. Most of the foundations of science are made solid with these principles, but much of modern science sits on more shaky ground as it becomes harder and harder to test new ideas.
"Often, these untested or untestable ideas are the most exciting and exotic, so they enter popular knowledge and, while being part of science, have a lot in common with myth and dogma. The idea of emergence also involves an unexpected, or unknown outcome, resulting from a simple defined system — it's a principle that specifically points out when we're surprised about how a system functions. I wanted to try and capture this mysterious feeling musically, and apply it to part of the visual story which sits outside of our knowledge — the part where we, the audience, fall into the black hole.
"Susi Sie is an artist from Berlin who specializes in filming secret combinations of different liquids with beautiful results. I thought that could be a nice way of unscientifically presenting what it might be like inside a black hole with light bending and warping under the influence of extreme gravity. Amongst other things, she also made the Beginning Of Life section of the Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Olympics.
Emergence is out now on Mesh, with album of remixes due March 31. Max Cooper is on tour now.