Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Track Review: Eluvium - Don't Get Any Closer

Portland's Matthew Cooper is one of those artists I have no shame in coming back to, even if it just to embrace one album and then move on. Eluvium - as he is more commonly known - for the past ten years has created ambient music that is more than just background-filler or work-suited, as many outsiders consider the genre to be on many an occasion. Eluvium stands for prolonged emotion as opposed to prolonged sounds - his music giving us a long-term appeal rather than a short-term settlement for the passage of time. Copia, Cooper's forth album under the alias was a landmark piece of music - let alone one residing under the ambient tag - in simplifying a projection in order to maximize its effectiveness. I still mark Indoor Swimming At The Space Station down as one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard, and likewise feel no shame in expressing that to those outside of the ambient field. For me, Eluvium is a highlight in my explorer nature for new music. Away from the personal back-story, though Cooper provided us with 2012's under the name Martin Eden, the emphatic longing has remained on his Eluvium output. 2013 however, sees Mr Cooper return to his alias, in the form of double-album Nightmare Ending, a fourteen-track two-disc record that promotes itself as being 'everything remarkable about past Eluvium albums, executed more powerfully and poignantly than ever before'. Don't Get Any Closer is the first glimpse into Eluvium's first offering since 2010's Similes, and much like his stand-out treasure, the track is a nine-minute unveiling of classical instrumentation and foggy layering, eventually reaching its true harder-hitting wet-eye beauty.

All the components to what Eluvium has done so well at are present in this track: the weightless droning of violins, the lofty treading tap of percussion, the descending drop of piano chords - all of which tangled and wrapped together amid a sprawled mix of echo and light distortion to give the overall track its pleasurably unearthly feel. The droning of instruments soon picks up in the second third of the piece, and it's clear that this becomes more and more the dominant component to Cooper's production. So too do they increase in volume (ever so slightly and somewhat cautiously) in as much as they become a lot more spread out and laced across the metaphysical simplicity of the music. Eventually, the previous clarity sustained on the track begins to fade away and the mix slowly but surely steps closer and closer to clouding over, looping synths conjuring a state of ambiguity and perhaps confusion amid the blurred sounds that begin enveloping the overall mix. The percussion begins to soak into this same blurring of sound. The dustier, crumbled-up textures that creep up in the closing third, get agonizingly more centralized in the mix - hints perhaps of a less-than-blissful emotive state, as the title might be hinting/swaying towards. And as the track loops its gliding of piano for the closing statement, the track ends on a hint of both positive and not-so-positive emotion as to where it is the tracks that follow it, will lead us.

While it may not be a piece of ambient music that travels or makes a clear distinction as to the concept of movement, what it does in its place however, is perhaps give the listener a chance to understand, as noted, the potential emotional scope and variance this album will hold, much like previous albums that have done so well in capturing and engaging with its listener's humane and personal inflictions. Instruments do, evidently, feel less independent from another - choosing to react as a combined state than against one another - and as a solitary track on its own, Don't Get Any Closer won't be concerning any of Cooper's other long-length compositions in regards to taking the crown for being the most engaging. But it without question, shows Eluvium in as honest a light, emotion-wise, as to the depths the artist is willing to go to in order to achieve a specific state of mind. And while it may not inflict as much of an emotional response because of its foggy all-together production, it provides enough of a reaction - through each of the instrument's simple use of progress - to incite a cause for further discovery. Eluvium's double-album LP Nightmare Ending arrives via Temporary Residence on May 14th.

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