by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Max Cooper is a fully fledged multimedia artist these days, telling stories through his increasingly powerful music and a well chosen suite of video collaborations.
Unspoken Words is described as his most powerful and personal album to date, a substantial body of work ‘leading the listener through experiences of escapism and connection with personal stories of reflection, acceptance, grappling, idealism and rejection.’
Cooper draws on his own personal experiences, relating his own mental health in musical terms. Speaking about the writing process, he described how he has tried to put as much feeling and form into the album as possible – the unspoken words – dealing with thoughts that are by turns ‘beautiful, intense, abrasive, messy and baffling’.
The story is told through 13 short films, and mixed in Dolby Atmos.
What’s the music like?
Cooper has a recognisable style these days, but not one that pins him down to a single tempo or pattern. Instead, his music grows ever more personal and meaningful, drawing from Unspoken Words feelings of greater intensity than ever before.
Not all of this music is comfortable or ambient, and there is a strongly descriptive thread running through the album of over-stimulation – that is, too many signals and interactions for the brain to process in one go. Solace In Structure is especially frenetic, processing a lot of signal activity in its five minutes, while Symphony In Acid is more difficult as a close-up encounter. Often these challenges are followed by softer tracks with greater padding, as in Small Window On The Cosmos, where Cooper pans out to consider the bigger picture.
When the awesome potential of this music is let loose, as it is on Ascent, the outcome is thrilling, suggesting that one day Cooper really should write for orchestral forces, for he marshals his equipment with a musical mind that always thinks on the large scale.
Does it all work?
Yes – but not all encounters with Max Cooper’s music are easy or straightforward on this album. Questions are asked – not all of them comfortable – and doubts are raised.
Is it recommended?
Having said the above, Unspoken Words can be recommended as a fiercely relevant piece of work. Anyone interested in the relationship between music and mental health will find an encounter with Max Cooper’s latest to be extremely worthwhile.