Release Date: Feb 23, 2010
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient
Ambient artists aren’t typically noted for their brevity. When an artist is putting together a piece of music that one would call ambient, it’s usually an excuse to fill a CD to capacity, not wasting an ounce of the time that could easily be filled with just a few more noises, evenly and precisely spaced. Drones can go on forever; minimalist techno-flavored ambience can take a loop and run with it.
Listening to an Eluvium record is like staring at a river. It moves, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. While you stand still in front of it, waiting for something interesting to happen, you suddenly realize that your mind is flowing along with it. You watch your thoughts and feelings float by in the water, at enough of a distance that you can’t distinguish them well enough to call them by their names.
Portland resident Matthew Cooper has been hanging around the peripheries of the ambient electronica, neoclassical and post-rock scenes for a few years now. He's released five albums of music under the Eluvium moniker which were as hazy and nebulous as the nominal boundaries between those scenes themselves. Moving from the minimalist piano pieces of 2003’s debut album An Accidental Memory In Case Of Death through the treated guitar drones of 2005’s Talk Amongst The Trees, to the grander orchestral arrangements of 2007’s Copia, the tools of Eluvium’s trade might have changed over the years, but the contemplative atmosphere has always remained the same.
You can't blame Matthew Cooper for wanting to try something different. Since 2003, he's been plugging away at an ambient style that is emotionally broad but conceptually narrow. There's only so much you can do with a palette limited to light classical instrumentation and drifting electronics, and Cooper's done most of it. An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death was a collection of Erik Satie-inspired piano pieces.
Known for melding classical and electronic touchstones into a uniquely styled ambient sound, Matthew Cooper (a.k.a. Eluvium) has once again taken a new approach with his music. The appropriately named Similes incorporates vocals and percussion in his trademark dreamscapes. But the more things change, the more they remain the same, so fans of previous releases shouldn’t be scared away by this new direction.
Glorious, albeit predictably so, Similes is a delight to be distracted by. Mike Diver 2010 Ambient music suffered terribly at the hands of a late-90s boom in chill-out compilations, ostensibly assembled to bring one down after a night of hackneyed gesticulating to the sounds of the Gallaghers and their laddish ilk. Bands you knew, remixes you didn’t, but the end products always much of a muchness: slower, sadder, certain to expose the (slightly) softer side of any lout.