Artist- Eluvium Album- Similes Record Label- Temporary Residence 2 out of 5 Pitchforks In his Feb. 24 release “Similes,” Eluvium’s Portland-based composer Matthew Cooper attempts to branch into a new direction. This album, his sixth, is his first to include percussion or vocals, and it is as ambient and longing as any before it.
However, more like a soundtrack to a movie about gracefully dealing with depression than a pop album, Cooper’s murmuring makes his first endeavor into lyric writing feel very tentative and unsure. Any lyrics that are heard are only snippets from the song itself, fitting with his airy, floating melodies.
Soft percussion like a drop of water falling on a pond punctuates the first track, “Leaves Eclipse the Light.” His voice — bored and weary sounding — is reminiscent of Ian Curtis or Interpol’s Paul Banks and is nearly impossible to follow fully even over the soft melodies
Next is “The Motion Makes Me Last,” a longing rhetorical question that asks, “What is it that has my mind so hypnotized?” Cooper labels himself as a vessel between two places he’s never been, weaving the story of some out of place lover hung out to dry.
“In Culmination” is a hopeful three-minute track with no vocals. Although beautiful, the song fails to build to anything different and winds up sounding like when a little boy discovers he can alternate between two chords on the piano.
“Weird Creatures” layers a slinky synthesizer over a slow-motion-like drum machine. Cooper’s whispering comes in late and ends early, but little can be understood. His thoughtful and sparing use of vocals proves safer — his voice so breathy that over-exertion might blow it away entirely.
A sleepwalk anthem for an Ambien nation, “Nightmare 5” is a slow, transfixing piece better for the background than the foreground. It fails to culminate to something great and changes little from beginning to end, sounding like the weak intro to a Sigur Ros song.
“Making Up Minds,” a standout track, seems like everything Cooper was aiming for with “Similes.” It ends with light piano after building up from nothing. His monotonous vocals sound like a monk’s chanting over the organ that makes up the body of the track. His lyrics are inaudible and mysterious, and the song takes a completely different direction, albeit 30 seconds before its end.
Another ethereal song with no lyrics, “Bending Dream,” seems to be infinite, having no beginning, middle or end. It is more an interlude than a title track.
The final track is the 11-minute “Cease To Know.” Entirely ambient, the song plays with soft strings enough to remind someone of an orchestra tuning itself. Cooper’s soft crooning is, as always, impossible to understand and seemingly superfluous. The track softly lingers on until slowly fading out — not much in a way of an ending piece.
Although attempting to play with a new dynamic, Eluvium’s “Similes” is a boring, sleepy sort of background music that is pretty without being consciously so.
Cooper’s vocals and soft drum-machine add little to the mix that might excite the listener the way musical movement (something in short supply on this album) would. Although the allure of peaceful ambiance sounds tantalizing, “Similes” sounds more like naptime.
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