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Eluvium - Nightmare Ending

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Artist: Eluvium

Album: Nightmare Ending

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Aug. 28, 2013

If these are Matthew Cooper’s nightmares, I can only imagine what his pleasant dreams are like. Bunnies made of clouds? Baby deer that only want to hug? While the title of Eluvium’s latest album suggests a foray into metal, the music heard within takes on a more soothing mode — something listeners to previous Eluvium fare will find themselves unsurprised by. It’s that second word that sticks, though — following 2011’s Similies, which found Cooper crooning on several pieces, splitting the difference between ambient Eno and pop-song Eno, and his work as Martin Eden, is this meant as a farewell to his established sound? It is, certainly, a kind of back-to-basics work; save Ira Kaplan’s on closer “Happiness,” there are no vocals to be heard here.

Should Nightmare Ending be considered a kind of retrenchment? Perhaps. Cooper is clearly playing to his strengths: Many of these songs take one blissed-out, yearning mode and gradually let it overtake another. “Rain Gently,” over the course of its nearly nine-minute running time, explores a passionate give and take, a pointed, pained melody playing out against a churning backdrop. “Envenom Mettle” is the most propulsive of the 14 songs here, ending with a keening keyboard part that seems as close to an epiphany as anything. And opener “Don’t Get Any Closer” seems to take a turn for the sacred — a passage played on church organ amidst the cloud of ethereal keyboards and static hum.

It’s restlessly beautiful stuff. To be fair, though, there’s little that Cooper has made, musically speaking, that isn’t in some way beautiful, from the work of his that’s appeared on Temporary Residence to the lengthy ambient compositions that appear on his Bandcamp page. The stylistic shift that Similies represented, however, is somewhat missed here; for all that Kaplan’s vocal contribution lends “Happiness” a magnificently melancholy air, echoing both the album that has come before and Yo La Tengo’s own forays into drone, it also suggests that there are permutations of Eluvium’s music left to explore. For Cooper, perhaps the biggest nightmare is dissonance; perhaps it’s that moment when the last notes fade out and silence is undeniable.

By Tobias Carroll

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