(Temporary Residence Limited)
Though they’re nearly obscured by grand melodies
and motionless textures, Matthew Cooper’s vocals have finally appeared on an
Eluvium recording. Cooper has used this pseudonym for years to issue his
instrumental ambient music — an always affecting, venturesome wash of brass,
strings, and piano as well as effects-strewn guitar and synths. On Similes, the Portland, Oregon-based artist
tracked his vocals for the first time, topping-off most of the album’s eight
compositions with somber verses.
In a hesitant baritone that mirrors The
National’s Matt Berninger’s, Matthew Cooper guides his once-shapeless forms
into unsurprisingly stunning songs on Similes.
The choruses are ushered to the fore with enhancements by way of more
reverberating piano, reluctant swells, and even drums. While the latter is also
a first for an Eluvium record, piano is just as prominent a fixture on the
song-driven Similes as it is on
2007’s Copia. The productions aren’t
as sweepingly symphonic as those three years back; they evolve in trickling,
indistinct loops and processed synthesizer tones for the most part. Lengthy
adjournments such as those in album closer “Cease to Know” are
devastating regardless, swirling out of focus with speaker-panning atmospherics
over a pattern of soothing drones. Adversely, the serene and compact
“Weird Creatures” could linger for hours, but Cooper clips its tail
just as it begins to really take hold. Even amid this spaciousness and
alterations to what’s usually a mild, solitary chord progression, the vocals
just-about slip away unnoticed.
The sentiments aren’t easily comprehensible on Similes because they’re mixed
comparatively low, and Matthew Cooper’s words, likely crafted with as much
meticulousness as all of the resonant instrumental peaks are, fade almost into
the ether. While a balance is executed masterfully in places, Similes would up the ante even more, had
the verbal contribution that’s taken years to share finally materialize less
like another flourish than one of the most important elements at work.
Standout Tracks: “Cease to
Know,” “Weird Creatures” DOMINIC UMILE