Eluvium: Similes
Temporary Residence

On Similes, his follow-up to 2007's Copia, Matthew Cooper (aka Eluvium) makes a rather big gamble in altering the approach that's brought him so much acclaim. Specifically, Similes finds Cooper adding vocals and embracing song structures in place of long-form soundscapes. The vocal move in particular is a bold one, as it can be a deal-breaker between an album succeeding or failing. No worries here: his laconic vocals turn out to be very appealing and a natural complement to the instrumental backings. Not to suggest Cooper modeled his vocal style after Eno, but it's hard to ignore the similarities when the Eluvium delivery recalls so clearly the singing on Before and After Science, the second side in particular, and Another Green World. Like Eno, Cooper's deep voice is often multi-tracked, his delivery relatively deadpan and free of emotional histrionics—the idea being that the songs and melodies already pack enough emotion that no vocal overstatement is needed to get the point across.

A transporting lullaby, “Leaves Eclipse the Light” opens Similes on a mesmerizing note, with a subtly rapturous backing a shimmering complement to Cooper's vocal murmur (lyrically, too, the material evokes Eno's “Everything Merges With the Night” when Cooper at one point sings “…as the day turns into night”). In “The Motion Makes Me Last,” the juxtaposition of deadpan vocal delivery and arresting instrumental touches (a lapping stream of slivers) harks even further back to Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. Only on the last song, “Cease to Know,” does Cooper present his voice sans multi-tracking, and consequently the album ends on a fragile note with the voice sounding as much like Lou Reed as it does Eno. Cooper also brings the instrumental density level down a notch or two in the song, which allows his voice more room to breathe. Similes is filled with beautiful moments: the lovely piano theme that graces “The Motion Makes Me Last,” the music's graceful ebb and flow (perhaps most audible during “Cease to Know”), and its hymnal and elegiac tone—familiar characteristics of Eluvium's style that come especially to the fore during the instrumental mini-symphonies that accompany the vocal pieces (the lulling dreamscape “Nightmare 5” and blurry meditation “Bending Dream,” for example).

March 2010