ELUVIUM (AKA Mathew Cooper) was copping a post-show smoke in Providence, Rhode Island, about four years ago. By chance he found himself speaking to "a strangely calm and bloody man outside of the venue," Cooper recounts. "I gave him my lighter; I wasn't about to take it back when he offered. A few minutes later, he was killed by the police, who also stormed into the club pointing guns at everyone [while] looking for this bloody man. Seems he had done some very horrible things."
If only this poor soul had been listening to Eluvium's music, perhaps his life would not have come to such a wretched, violent end. That may sound melodramatic, but the sounds this local guitarist/pianist creates do exert an undeniably peaceful effect, a most gentle sort of catharsis. Unless you have a perversely strong preference for hoarding tension and anxiety, you could certainly do worse than Eluvium in the stress-reduction sweepstakes.
Not unlike the ambient compositions of artists like Brian Eno, William Basinski, and Stars of the Lid, Eluvium produces serene swaths of guitar and keyboards that can serve as a means to attaining peace of mind and/or a higher state of consciousness. Eluvium full-lengths like Lambent Material, Talk Amongst the Trees, and Copia cast becalming spells through beatific waves of minimalist guitar and piano, scrupulously fashioned into pieces of understated grandeur. These records—as well as the all-piano opus An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death—instill tranquility while also moving you to misty-eyed contemplation.
Eluvium's new album, Similes, marks a slight departure: Cooper sings on it and includes subtle percussion touches. These changes won't shock Eluvium's loyal cabal of fans, as the music is still very much in the vein of past efforts. However, hearing Cooper stoically intone in a deep monotone like a combination of Ian Curtis, Stephin Merritt, and Brian Eno takes some getting used to. But Cooper had no trepidations about vocalizing after having established himself as an instrumental artist.
"I was filled with words, and I was interested in learning and growing and trying new things," he explains. "I had almost finished another record prior to writing Similes, but I threw it out and started again. It just felt uninspiring to me and easy. It's nice to learn how to do new things; it's certainly more engaging than doing the same thing over and over."