Eluvium: False Readings On (Temporary Residence, 2016)
Eluvium is the recording project of multi-instrumentalist Matthew Cooper. False Readings On is Cooper’s 8th full-length outing, which doesn’t include the seven EP’s he’s produced as well. On this new album, Cooper utilizes voices as a form of instrument on various tracks throughout the LP. It makes for haunting, as well as consoling, moments as the choral voices come in and out of conversation with the ambient sounds and textures. There is a play between melancholy and bright hope throughout the layers. Sometimes these elements seem to happen simultaneously. In this way, Cooper’s compositions seem human, warm, and, inevitably, truth telling, if one can call musical soundscapes such a thing. However, it is the humanness amidst the starkness through which Cooper presents beauty.
“Strangeworks” opens the album with an unsettling mumbling under fuzz and noise which then bursts into a larger organ sound sitting on a bed of light, airy static. Cooper ushers his listener into his alt-orchestral church and it is indeed grand and awe inspiring, like one entering the warmth of a cathedral on a cold winter’s day. Eventually, an operatic voice flows through the speakers, not intelligible, but present. Perhaps we have here the choir helping to lead us into the sacrosanct moments about to follow. “Fugue State” begins with fluttering flutes bouncing about on top of deep, organ drones. They swell under the playfulness of the flutes and eventually come into full conversation with them. An operatic voice plays amongst the growing, effulgent soundscapes. The track is patient as layers of sound are introduced. At about 6:20, a fiery, crisp sound circulates through the speaker as the climax begins and then fades into quiet. The layers peal back as the track closes. Cooper is simply at the height of his composition skills here and the result is magnificent.
“Drowning Tone” is one of two very short tracks on the disc and seems to be a transition into a much more drone oriented track that follows. The track runs less than a minute and is this full drone surrounded by beautiful textures. “Regenerative Being” begins with whirling synths and dreamy, bright keys. The track is memorizing. It’s meditative and encourages the listener to move into a more contemplative mood. The operatic voice punctuates the track as the drones build with piano entering to produce more layers. The track ends with echoing noises and bleeps and bloops, jarring the contemplative moment back into life’s conflicting reality. “Washer Logistics” begins with a full throated drone, loud and present. The climax is actually the tracks movement into silence and it’s a beautiful reversal of track composition.
“Movie Night Revisited” begins with static fuzz and is lifted up with choral voices moving in and out of the speakers. It’s an incredibly soothing track with vocals that peer through the playful static, strings, and reed instruments. This track evokes what it feels like to walk outside on the first day of spring after a long, hard winter. For me, it evokes movie night in the park watching old black and white films on those evenings that are not too hot but just crisp enough to remind you that winter is just over. “Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse” has a beautiful drone with what sounds like a cello playing a sparse melody overtop. The track is still, patient and, about halfway through the 8:51 of the track, a choir enters the mix. The choir on this disc evoke beautiful choral singing in the context of large church cathedrals. Again, I return here to my beginning metaphor of this reverent, sacred space created by Cooper throughout the disc. This track just brings it to the fore once again.
The eighth track on the disc is “False Readings On”, which is both the title track and the second shortest track clocking in at 1:22. The track feels more “space-like” and a bit ominous. Perhaps we have here a moment of clarity about what happens outside of the contemplative space. The reality of life and all its problems and complexities. Frankly, the track feels like it belongs in a long lost Twilight Zone episode as synths warble and what sounds like transmissions play in the spaces between sounds. “Rorschach Pavan” returns to the serene soundscapes but there is a light touch of melancholy here among the tones. “Individuation” is the penultimate track on the disc and leads the listener into the longest, which is the finale. A light bed of static sits under a slowly rendered piano melody. Perhaps the sound of rain is mixed in here among the static as well. The piano eventually fades while the rain sprinkles about. This leads into the 17:22 finale, “Posturing through Metaphysical Collapse”.
“Posturing through Metaphysical Collapse” is a masterclass in ambient arrangement. Cooper’s composition her is so patient and perfect. The build lasts over the entire track as subtle layers and volume control play key roles in building toward the climax of this epic piece. At about 15 minutes, the layers begin to peel away as the track begins to come down off of its climb. This track, in and of itself, could have been released as a single track disc. It is a beautiful finale that ushers the listener out of the cathedral back into the real, difficult world that is full of complicated life. There are touches of brightness alongside melancholy that makes the track a wonderful encapsulation and resolution of all that came before it.
Since 2003, Matthew Cooper has been releasing lush, ambient, alt-orchestral delights for listeners. His patience, ear, and soundscape design have been honed well over a decade. False Readings On demonstrates that Cooper is able to tap into a particular quality of music that evokes emotive reactions from listeners. Of course, this will not be news to those who know his catalog. False Readings On is a masterclass in ambient compositions, evoking emotions, contemplation, and imagery. Perhaps Matthew Cooper was finding his way to a sanctuary among the doubts and difficulties of life, and, with False Readings On, he invites his listeners to join him.
Buy False Readings On here.
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