Matthew Cooper returns with an orchestral album which sparkles, soothes, and confirms him to be at the height of his creative powers
Matthew Cooper has released music under the Eluvium name since 2003, gradually broadening his sound from the purely ambient sound of his early days to one that incorporated modern classical sensibilities and styles. It’s not a surprise therefore to learn that for his latest album (Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality he employed a full live orchestra. This was the first time he’s worked in this way but it feels like a natural progression given the nature of his music.
Recent years have seen Cooper release more experimental/conceptual works that pay attention to modern themes (for example, the pair of Virga I and Virga II albums seeing him explore generative music and long-format looping and 2017’s Shuffle Drones being an album of 23 short ambient pieces designed to be played on shuffle). His sound has been best defined however by his earlier albums like 2016’s False Endings On, 2013’s Nightmare Ending and 2007’s Copia (arguably his finest work) where warm, ambient symphonies are interspersed with the occasional stately solo piano piece. Despite the change in instrumentation on (Whirling Marvels In) Consensus Reality there is very much a sense of continuity, Cooper’s long established artistic principles and motifs being preserved once again with intelligence and empathy.
It’s apparent in the early moments here, in the way how the violins of Swift Automatons dance around the piano signposts or in the escalating, looped strings of Vibration Consensus Reality (For Spectral Multiband Resonator). Phantasia Telephonics is sonic architecture defined by elegant execution and ambitious scale and there’s something almost maximalist in how rich and layered the various instrumental groups sound alongside each other.
Some ambient music might run the risk of being perceived as faceless or homogeneous but has never been a factor with Eluvium albums. This latest release offers more proof of how they have a humanity and depth that makes them stand apart (appropriate perhaps, given how Cooper chooses to record under a name that sounds like some sort of rare, precious metal).
There are some comparisons to other composers that suggest themselves along the way. The sombre, low key Scatterbrains recalls the much missed Jóhann Jóhannsson while Void Manifest has shades of Henryck Górecki in how the repeated, processed vocals rise slowly out of the blanketed layers. The Violet Light also has fragments of speech that further reinforce the human aspect. Describing music as immersive might not always be the most helpful of terms but it’s hard to avoid it when talking about Eluvium releases. Moments like these feel like we’re being slowly submerged into the very fabric of the music.
There might not be any solo piano pieces here but Clockwork Fables possesses a music box like delicacy and shows how he can still expertly vary the dynamic. Mass Lossless Interbeing is bathed in the purest of light, veritable aural balm and final track Endless Flower brings matters to a poignant close, the percussion in particular adding an emotional dimension as it erupts like far off, celebratory fireworks. In short, it’s classic Eluvium and caps another special album, one that sparkles, soothes, and confirms him to be at the height of his creative powers.