Lush, Pulsing Atmospherics from Eluvium
The recently released Nightmare Ending by Eluvium, a.k.a. Matthew Robert Cooper is completely mistitled – unless it means either “nightmare, ending,” or he’s being sarcastic. Built with a sometimes ornately intricate, sometimes disarmingly simple series of concentric loops, this lavishly atmospheric album creates a warmly enveloping ambience that reminds of Brian Eno, and Philip Glass at his catchiest. Alexander Berne’s magnificently nocturnal Echoes of Mime, Death of Memes also comes to mind.
A slow, pulsing echo prevades most of the fourteen tracks here, most of them clocking in at six minutes or more. All but the final cut are instrumentals. Segues and fades in both directions, up and down, abound. Tempos are slow to glacial. With the exception of the album’s single upbeat interlude, the central rhythm is like waves on a tide, implied rather than centered on a beat, sometimes surrounded by a thicket of gentle alternate rhythms, sometimes simply drifting. Thick, nebulous sheets of sound contrast with tersely emphatic phrases played on piano, tinkling electric piano, austerely swelling organ, an endless series of synthesizer patches and possibly guitar. The complete sonic picture is so densely processed that it’s hard to figure out what’s what. The hypnotic effect is so strong that it creates an audio vortex that, depending on your attention span, either has you raptly watching the slideshow as it glides by, or sends you blissfully lost out into the swirl.
There’s some hide-and-seek going on here, too: Cooper has a dry sense of humor, hiding several new wave pop melodies in the slowly revolving cloud. Stately baroque phrases get methodically disassembled and are also sent into space to slowly spin and refract glints and shadows of themselves back into the mix. With an oceanic majesty, several of the tracks rise to an epically orchestral peak and then gracefully descend to peaceful lullaby ambience. There are also a small handful of simple, disarmingly direct piano miniatures here, two of them gentle, stately waltzes, a third which introduces an unexpected plaintiveness. Their childlike simplicity only enhances the contrast with the kaleidoscope around them.