Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Similes - Eluvium (Spring Records 2010)
SCQ Rating: 81%
“I’m a vessel between two places I’ve never been,” intones Matthew Cooper over the petal-soft piano of ‘The Motion Makes Me Last’, and it’s certainly a moment to savour. Like how a freeze-frame of reality can concrete to one’s memory, this lyric alone sums up the quiet hesitation of choosing one path over another and living with the consequences. Such are the boundaries of Similes’ mentality, a record dedicated to Cooper’s personal deliberations as much as it is cratered by an obvious sonic progression. Gone are Copia’s post-classical meanderings that often sounded as ambient as a junior-high piano recital and lost are the gauzy epics that bogged down Cooper’s focus; what is Similes if not the clairvoyant, unhurried jewel beneath that former record’s rocky terrain, a mystic knowledge acquired through those growing pains? The assuredness muscled at the roots of these eight songs are both reflective and seemingly enthralled by their very existence… so when Cooper sings about being a vessel between two unknown ends, it’s completely viable that one end is personal, the other professional.
A less subtle acknowledgement to that lyric is that, um, there are lyrics on an Eluvium record! Beyond his recent welcoming of verse-and-chorus structures, Cooper’s inconspicuous vocals warrant recognition as the biggest risk of his seven-year career. Whether treading low and cautiously over ‘Leaves Eclipse The Night’’s humid rustling or leading the finale ‘Cease To Know’, these vocal outings consistently hint at an emotional punch not worth engaging in forthright. Similes is more effective shadowboxing anyway, creating highlights out of missed climaxes and reveries out of sidewalk-wandered self-analysis. To call this album introverted doesn’t even do it justice; to recognize that every song with lyrics is centered around the word “mind” is getting warmer. As gently cohesive as Similes feels, it remains a brazen progression that will cause some Eluvium fans to turn up their noses. Let them. After the gluttonous Life Through Bombardment - a box-set of every Eluvium LP ever released – made a lengthy case for how predictable Cooper’s brand of ambience can become when split into sonic shades, Similes is a well-timed second coming that spotlights his craft in an exciting new direction. A brilliant document from an artist who lives between ambiguity and transparency, Similes brings out the best of both realms.