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Thirteen years ago, Matthew Cooper’s maximalist ambient project, Eluvium, defined itself as a leader in contemporary ambient music with a blistering streak of intimate, yet vast, successive releases, since maintaining its posture with a punctual rhythm. Eluvium’s constantly evolving body of work marks the presence of this new album as peculiar, what with the imposing finality of his ambitious 2013 double album Nightmare Ending. Cooper took bold steps to assemble flourishes of all his previous works on the album: the vocals and percussion of Similes – bare piano interludes – and most prominently the sonic framework of the diverse, orchestral Copia. Signs pointed to a resolution of the project, with Cooper choosing to work on side projects for the three quiet years since. Instead, False Readings On continues to foster aspects of his past work, but further diversifies his sonic palette where Nightmare Ending consolidated it.
False Readings On engages with a new, pointed thematic directness and the addition of sampled operatic vocals, while making its return to focus are Cooper’s glistening electronics, as well as the reintroduction of his shoegaze influences seen on Talk Amongst The Trees. Cooper has been forthright in expressing the stated theme of the album: Information saturation in the modern world, and the subsequent dissonances in the mind that result; while heavy-handed and lofty, glimpses of this can be seen clearly – especially in the album’s strongest tracks and their contrasting characters and builds.
The album-opener, “Strangeworks,” making as seamless a transition as any, begins with a muffled broadcast, one that soon cedes to shimmering keys with backgrounds of swelling cacophony. Bearing similarities to the grander opening of Nightmare Ending, “Strangeworks” acts as a mission statement of advancement when the newly adopted choirs lend it unfamiliar color. “Fugue State” continues the presentation of Cooper’s confidence through spinning blips underscored by resonant organs and distorted, stretched operatic pieces.” Regenerative Being”, is, in ways, a more reserved “Fugue State,” but through this is contrasted with the next track, “Washer Logistics.” While “Regenerative Being” is marine and contemplative, “Washer Logistics,” in the first sign of things to come, wastes no time in a blast of Kevin Shield’s densest dreams. The final stretch of the album is its most absorbing. The title track and “Individuation” provide short respites to “Rorschach Pavan” and the conclusion: “Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse.” At almost seventeen and-a-half minutes, the closer is the longest Eluvium track to date, showcasing Cooper at his most brazen.
Hints of stagnation in Eluvium’s body of work are yet dispelled by the still-unique tone of Cooper’s new release. “Beyond The Moon for Someone in Reverse” doesn’t match the physicality of the other, longer pieces that serve as foundation for much of False Readings, further emphasized by its placement between the the album’s two most understated cuts: “Movie Night Revisited” and the eponymous track.
Despite these bumps, still ambitious, still conceptual, and still engaging, Eluvium breaks a period of silence with a direct and emotionally stirring album- of which, if anything, places ambient second to grandiosity.