Ahead of ADE: 4D Sound and Max Cooper

The fundamentals of dancefloors as we know them haven’t changed that much in a few decades. Despite obvious leaps in audio and visual technology – the advent of meaty Funktion One stacks, Void Acoustic horns, projected graphics, and ice cannons more effective at disposing of exposed dancefloor contraband than the savviest of bouncers – the qualitative essence of the club experience has remained very much the same. The 4D sound system is a disruptor to this formula, introducing immersive sound, more hyper-3D than 4D – an ambitious realization of the previously unlocked potential of true 3-dimensionality on the dancefloor.

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Broadcasting from 16 poles rising from a 16 x 16 metre grid, each cylinder containing arrays of speakers in 3 clusters: just below the waist, at head height, and up above – somewhere towards the peak of their 4 metre stature. With subs embedded under the floor, the soundsystem envelops the listener in a deluge of highly organised sound, synced to live controllers via Ableton and clever plugin software (the 4D engine) that allows performers to program the physical location of each element of the music in 3D models.

This new approach has been adopted and promoted by Max Cooper, known for years by a core underground and now increasingly mainstream contingent for his prolific genre-defying producing, mixing abstract mathematical and artistic concepts with electronica, and lively, dynamic, live shows. After a year or two of more low-key experimentation with the new technology (Max mentioned the project during its infancy back when we caught up with him in Spring 2013), he’s taking it to the big league at ADE this week. I guess if someone was going to spearhead a quantum leap in dancefloor tech it might as well be the ex research scientist.

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Max has described the Dutch built 4D rig as “half way between a gallery experience and a club experience”; it’s a system perfectly suited to a high dynamic range, to disparate elements, waves, raindrops and echoes of music that flitter around like swathes of dulcet, organic mass… or full bodied, palpable bass tones, projecting intricate landscapes like a distributed matrix of cinema screens.

But unlike other art instillations, this is a scenario that’s purpose-built for the club. Indulgees can treat the space like any dancefloor, with room for 300 or so to move around in front of a familiar DJ booth. Those in tune with Max’s typical sets can expect all the usual intricacies – collisions of clubby techno and ambient, introspective elements – with the introduction of the spatial, explorative experience. Sounds can be fixed structures around the room, or seem to fly past the listener, change shape, explode or implode. It’s an alternate reality, but one featuring house and techno tunes.

“A normal club experience is loud, and it’s dark and you’ve got the bass punching you, but essentially most of the time it’s even mono – unless you’re in that sweet spot in the room with the two speakers, you don’t really hear the stereo side of things, you just sort of hear the melody, you hear the rhythm, you get the timbre of the sound, but you don’t really get any spatial cues”, Max says, “… what the 4D system is, is really taking that spatial experience into a club – and to the extreme”.

You can catch the 4D experience as part of ADE on Wednesday 15th, at Compagnietheater. A second show has been added to the listings after a speedy sellout of the first one.