Eluvium: Talk Amongst the Trees
Temporary Residence

With Talk Amongst the Trees, Eluvium (Matthew Cooper) returns to the lush ambience of his 2003 debut Lambent Material rather than the haunting neo-classical piano works of last year's An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death. The latter surprised not only for having been recorded in a mere two hours (using only one microphone with no subsequent overdubbing, editing, mixing, or post-production of any kind) but for the audacious left turn Cooper took after the debut. While the piano album evokes Satie, the new one perfectly melds Brian Eno's warm ambience with Tim Hecker's guitar-drenched atmospherics; Talk Amongst the Trees possesses the hazy majesty of Hecker's Mirages but eschews that album's scarred noise for a more peaceful, becalmed dreaminess. In spite of their obvious difference, the tension between order and abstraction that permeates the sophomore Eluvium release reigns throughout the new album too.

Talk Amongst the Trees is sonic sculpting of the first rank. The album's eight pieces drift ruminatively through pulsating pathways and twilight slumbers, the longer compositions in particular unfurling fluidly. While no source instruments are identified, it sounds like Cooper constructed the album using piano, guitar, and organ (as suggested by the gentle squalls in “Everything To Come” and the guitar-driven “Taken”) though they're heavily processed and thus abstracted throughout. Admirably, he quells any urge towards grandiose theatrics, opting instead for restraint (only “Taken” evolves dramatically though in controlled manner). Cooper's style is luminous, hazy, and non-abrasive, one that suggests its themes more than explicitly states them; “Calm of the Cast-Light Cloud,” for example, presents dense, amorphous fluttering ripples where only the vaguest trace of melody comes into focus. The music resembles an immense panoramic vista that when blurred into barely-recognizable abstract forms becomes even more beautiful.

Opening the collection at a peak, the ten-minute “New Animals From The Air” delicately layers ripples of gentle clicking patterns over stately bass tones. The effect is graceful and poignant, the track's slow-motion undulations bringing forth its meditative dimension; subsequent pieces are equally celestial and glacial. The epic “Taken” subtly modulates over a seventeen-minute span as marching guitar plucks and billowing tones etch a hypnotically looping theme. Unlike the other more static compositions, “Taken” incrementally escalates in volume and intensity until it reaches a level of resonant, shimmering density; by the eleven-minute mark, distortion bleeds from the sounds as they merge into a blurred, heaving mass, hymnal tones faintly audible at its center. The piece ultimately rises to a muffled crescendo before segueing gently into “We Say Goodbye To Ourselves” where billowing tones offer restful calm. The funereal “One” brings Talk Amongst the Trees to a stately close, a fittingly peaceful and melancholy coda.

“Eluvium,” incidentally, stands for “residual deposits of soil, dust, and rock particles produced by the action of the wind,” an apt definition given the degree to which Cooper's fragile detritus re-constitutes itself into hazy configurations. Even so, there's a straightforward and elemental quality to the music, in spite of its abstract quality; the understated delivery of Cooper's emotionally potent music only renders it that much more affecting. Consider Talk Amongst the Trees a stunning collection of soul-stirring ambient music.

February 2005