Matthew Cooper's newest Eluvium album is apparently inspired by two works of poetic literature by T.S.Eliot and Richard Brautigan. That's easier said than done, of course, and equally unclear is how Cooper has changed his compositional methodology because of a debilitating medical problem with his left shoulder and arm. It is hard to decipher exactly what is meant by, to paraphrase, blending electronic automations with traditional songwriting and using algorithms to extract from several years of notebook scribble. Perhaps this means he has worked in cyborgian harmony with machines, which would fit with the Brautigan reference point of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace.
I enjoyed the entire album, although did wonder a couple of times if I'd left the Buddha Machine on in the bathroom.
Opener "Escapement" is instantly inspiring and comforting in equal measure. It sounds to me like a cyclist awakened by their alarm clock from a dream of pedaling leisurely down a country lane. Cooper quickens the pace on "Swift Automatons" as if the bike is tipping over the top of a hill for a freewheel downhill. The piece relies on repetition, albeit with a light touch. There is a greater sense of urgency and foreboding to "Vibration Consensus Reality (for Spectral Multiband Resonator)" with overlapping pulses underpinning a cello-like synth melody, and expertly placed, if sparse, keyboard plinks.
Highlights come faster than they would in real life, which is partly why we love music. From the title I expected "Scatterbrains" to be fast, wild and glitchy, rather than lovely, slow, somber, and downright sad. I've no idea what "Phantasia Telephonics" are but the track is so packed with sublime exit folds and reverses echoes of lost dreams that I actually don't care. Cooper uses a section from Eliot's The Wasteland on "The Violet Light". It is unclear why, but it sounds good.
"A current under sea/Picked his bones in whispers/As he rose and fell he passed the stages of his age and youth/Entering the whirlpool."
Cooper provides the knockout punch on the following "Void Manifest," which is a real choral sweet spot with an unabashedly emotional thwack. "Mass Lossless Interbeing" crushes all the feelings which Whirring Marvels has previously engendered into a blender which drips down like how Chinese Water (The Opposite of) Torture might sound. At which point couscous came to mind. I've been eating it a lot lately because it is the perfect light and easy summer food and the weather has turned very warm. Some people find couscous insubstantial. I'm digging it but will grow sick of it if I eat too often.
Matthew Cooper works with members of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), Golden Retriever, and the entire Budapest Scoring Orchestra, often via the convenient "good technology" of teleconference during 2020 and 2021.