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Matthew Cooper - Some Days are Better than Others

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Artist: Matthew Cooper

Album: Some Days are Better than Others

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Jul. 7, 2011

As a spectator, keeping track of the lines that demarcate a single artist’s multiple musical personas can be trying. Some use different aliases or project names to prevent confusion. Matthew Cooper, on the other hand, offers up a subtler case study. You might not think you know his music based on name recognition, but you’re an aficionado of the ambient/drone world, it’s likely that you’ve heard of (if not flat-out heard) Eluvium. (He’s also toured with Explosions in the Sky, remixed the Black Heart Procession, and released a split album with Jesu.) His latest work is the soundtrack to the independent film Some Days are Better than Others; regardless of the context of the accompanying film, it’s a strong work, modest in scope and quite affecting in spots.

Cooper released the album Miniatures under his full name (Matthew Robert Cooper) in 2008 -- and while it wasn’t a significant departure from his work as Eluvium, evidence of demarcation was there. The chief point separating Cooper’s work under his own name and his work as Eluvium seems to be that of complexity. While Eluvium’s work isn’t particularly baroque, the latest album, Similies, found Cooper exploring a greater stylistic range than before, incorporating Eno-esque vocals and lyrics in the mix. Cooper’s own work is simpler: long, sustained passages, approaching but never quite reaching epiphany. This album’s “What You Leave Behind” (for instance) is a somber piece built around what sounds like a church organ; a halting melody (or the suggestion of one) almost emerges, then slips away. Much of the album proceeds in this vein, and its modest scope restrains Cooper’s occasional tangents into sentimentality.

That said, the most memorable parts of this album come at the very end, during its most layered compositions. Both “Camille and the Ocean” and the title track (or theme?) introduce more complexity into the structure, taking a basic theme and pitting it against numerous counterpoints and washes of sound. It isn’t necessarily innovative, but it’s no less effective -- music that effectively blends the romantic with the narcotic. It’s worth remembering that Similies was recorded after Cooper wrote this soundtrack. Given that that album upended the established sound of Eluvium, it’s unclear whether Some Days are Better than Others represents a reinforcement of the sound heard on Minuatures, or whether Cooper’s work under his own name is about to undergo a similar leap. Given the quality of the work heard on Some Days are Better than Others, Cooper has offered a number of reasons to keep listening.

By Tobias Carroll

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