Matthew Robert Cooper: Miniatures
Gaarden Records

Since every one of Matthew Robert Cooper's Eluvium releases has highlighted a slightly different musical persona—the solo pianisms of An Accidental Memory In The Case Of Death followed by Talk Amongst The Trees' elegiac drones and Copia's neo-classical chamber settings, for example—the most curious thing about Miniatures isn't the degree to which it stylistically differs from his other works but why he opted to issue it under his birth name. It's an incidental point musically, however, and ultimately more a marketing issue for Gaarden Records than anything else. Hopefully no one'll be too misled by the title either, as only about half of the thirty-four-minute album's nine pieces could be classified as miniatures, if duration is used as a barometer that is. One thing that is different is that it's Cooper's first proper vinyl release (2000 copies with the first 1000 on coloured vinyl).

The collection begins strongly with a beatific organ-styled opener whose hypnotic ebb and flow points the listener skyward, and the slow and measured unfurl of the song's interwoven melodies proves to be as haunting as anything in the Eluvium catalogue. The subsequent pieces alternate between shorter interludes—three piano nocturnes (number two gentle, four dramatic, and eight romantic), a robust church organ piece (five), and gentle interlude of glassy tones (six)—and more elaborate set-pieces. In number three, strings swell into an oceanic mass while a slow-motion melody softly calls out its yearning theme at its center, and in seven, the repeating tinkle of an Eno-like melody floats along the surface of a peaceful, ambient-styled piano meditation (that Cooper, for whatever reason, clutters with extraneous field noises); miniature nine ends the album gracefully with sweeping melancholia clothed in a full-bodied orchestral arrangement.

Regardless of instrumental differences, all of the pieces exude Cooper's signature blend of sweetness and longing, making Miniatures a more than worthy addition to Cooper's discography and, for listeners new to his work, a perfect starting point given the degree to which its individual pieces point in the direction of the individual Eluvium releases.

October 2008