As is abundantly clear from the opening track, "Woven Ancestry," and the schmaltzy "Adrift," Cooper isn't one to guard his emotions. That's part of what makes his dance music feel so personal, but presented in a sit-and-listen context, the sentimentality has all the subtlety of a puppy licking your face. Cooper works best when there's a thread of unease lurking beneath his regal songs, and for the better half of Human he does engage his dark side. The record's skies get greyer with time. Roiling basslines shroud otherwise tranquil tunes, and Cooper ditches melody altogether for the startling techno workout "Impacts," which sounds like a sledgehammer striking metal. Later, a torrent of straight-up noise washes over "Potency," easily Human's most exciting and surprising moment.
Cooper revels in the time-stretching effects of his IDM-inspired rhythm tracks, letting them rip like scissors through cheap fabric. Every sound on Human is presented in hi-def splendour, so his piano work feels natural rather than tacked-on. But Cooper's ear for melody and composition doesn't always live up to his knack for sound design. Songs like "Empyrean," where syrupy melodies are eaten away by unstable glitch, are built on little more than the basic juxtaposition of pretty and ugly. In moments like these, Cooper ends up sounding like a poor man's Jon Hopkins.
Though Human capitalizes on the most attractive aspects of Cooper's work, it also reveals the limitations of a style he's basically perfected. Aurally stunning and cinematic at every turn, it's the flashy B-grade action flick you think you've seen before, when you might have been expecting a resonant tale of the human condition.