Subliminally sublime "Trees"


March 11, 2005, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 15 years, 10 months ago

Ambient artist Eluvium returns to form


Despite what conventional wisdom would have us believe, it isn't always a crime to judge a book, or CD, by its cover. Take, for example, the album cover for Eluvium's third CD, "Talk Amongst the Trees." Said cover depicts several human figures and a couple of maybe fenceposts consumed in a nearly blinding fog-snow. It is breathtaking and heavenly, much like the music encoded on the plastic disc inside.

Matthew Cooper, the brainchild of and (almost) sole contributor to Eluvium, has a penchant for gorgeous ambience. His third release in as many years, "Talk Amongst the Trees" returns to the form of 2002's debut "Lambent Material," which is to say an intersection of fluttering guitar, piano, and electronica elements. The titles are eerily fitting: "lambent" refers to effortless flickering over a surface, and for all the press his third and equally awe-inspiring release is going to receive, it might as well be the trees talking to each other.

Cooper leads with the 10 minute "New Animals From the Air," a slowly unfolding, way-tripped-out "Peter and the Wolf" of sorts. Backsliding sound clips and blips surround a central circling drone; the song seems to fade almost in and out of consciousness, repeating and swirling to the ultimate conclusion (he had to end it somewhere, after all). The song's soft and purposeful fade-out bleeds gently into "Show Us Our Homes," which, led by a few floating guitar and keyboard pitches, wanders to the edges of some white-framed world and back again.

Where the album truly blooms, though, is at its sumptuous midsection. Beginning with the heady, dream-like whine of "Everything to Come," which starts and stutters in measured gasps; continuing through the surreal "Calm of the Cast-Light Cloud," with its lazy, complimentary and, at times, almost dissonant drones; and finishing masterful with "Taken," a piece built on two or three guitar parts that builds over an immense 16 minutes into an epic and strutting slow-motion shot. Each note through this three-song stretch seems hand picked, crafted, and perfected, despite the almost half-hour consumed by this chunk of the album. The result is a warm sensation of blissfully, pixel by melodious pixel, fading to an absolutely serene white.

The album's fade-out is less concentrated: "We Say Goodbye to Ourselves" is an airy, angelic chorus of patterned synthesizer notes that lasts a puny two minutes, while "One" ends the album on a credits-rolling kind of low-keyness, with breathy half-syllables that change pitch often enough to remind you that it's probably time to open your eyes. Not surprisingly, "Talk Amongst the Trees" is, on its surface, largely insubstantial. Only upon almost severely close inspection do the winding complexities of each song shine through. The droning nature of many of Cooper's compositions often lead to a kind of crisis of faith: is the music actually subtly changing, or am I going insane? And, more importantly, with all of this splendor coming through the headphones, does it really even matter?



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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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