If an “hour-long meditation on self-doubt, anxiety, and separation from one’s self” can always sound as good as Eluvium’s False Readings On, I need to meditate more often. There is a distinct undercurrent of sadness to Matthew Cooper’s work here, but it’s couched in such soft, ethereal beauty that it just seeps in slowly rather than weighing heavily upon the listener. The connection evolves across 11 songs that combine an ambient framework with phrasing and structure that rings of a classical influence. A repeated use of vocal pads adds to that, and brings in a sacred-music feel to most the tracks here. It shows up first at the end of the opening piece, “Strangeworks,” somewhere between hymnal and operatic. Piano and synth chords set the stage and then accompany it as the piece winds down. On “Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse,” they come after a long stretch of quiet minimalism. At its outset, the piece is built on a whisper of a vocal drone and low, muted string notes. Halfway along, the voices rise like prayer, their brightness sudden and contrasting–and so, quite effective. Allusions to Pärt can be made here, and rightfully so. “Movie Night Revisited” is more immediate with its vocal aspect, another prayer-like offering with an unobtrusive drone foundation. Reverb applied to the vocals give it even more of a singing-in-church feel. The voices step out to give way to a woodwind-toned lead and a breathy harmonium sound that lifts up to transform into something more like a pipe organ. Cooper steps away from the vocals on the title track, a short, minimal work with spoken snippets and crackling electronic backdrop. The album closes with the massive wall of drones that form the heart of “Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse.” Cooper builds it during the piece’s 17-minute flow in a way that is never obvious. It rises and thickens into a tight grid of hissing white noise with a dynamic core.
False Readings On is a beautiful album poised at the juncture between ambient and the modern classical works of composers such as Pärt and Richter. Unhurried, deep, and complex, it’s relaxing in a low-level cathartic kind of way. Speaking to you softly, it finds your feelings and plays on them. This is one of those albums that, when it came up in a shuffle in my review queue, never failed to stop me in my tracks and make me need to know who was putting out such moving music. It’s Eluvium, and you need to listen to this now.
Available at Bandcamp.