Eluvium, aka Matthew Cooper, makes beautiful music. There is no denying that fact. His interesting mix of electronic ambient tones combined with lush piano paints a great picture. However, as someone who probably doesn’t appreciate the piano as much as I should, I’ve always found previous Eluvium albums to be a bit tiresome and boring.
So, when I popped in Similies, the first thing I noticed was Cooper’s vocals. This is a big deal, considering his previous records were pretty devoid of words overall, and his vocals are a healthy, welcome addition to Eluvium’s minimalist tones. Cooper’s vocals sound like a cross between Owen Pallett’s harmonious singing style and Phil Elverum’s rambling poetic style, adding another layer of depth that Eluvium previously wasn’t able to achieve. The genius of it all is that the music isn’t sacrificed whatsoever.
Some songs, like “The Motion Makes Me Last,” have harmonies which carry along with the bold piano line. In the background, the electronic drone gently swirls around underneath Cooper’s soft, powerful, vocals. “The Motion Makes Me Last” is probably the best example of this new Eluvium sound, while other songs, like “In Culmination,” are more traditional Eluvium cuts with no vocals, just pianos meandering across the ivy.
Closing out Similies is the fantastic 11-minute “Cease To Know,” in which Eluvium echoes electronic shoegaze sounds in the left ear and out the right. The piano takes second fiddle to these tones, and it just repeats the same gentle line for the duration of the song. The song never really goes up, but it also never really goes down; this is the Eluvium of old, and it is nice to see that he hasn’t given up his minimalistic tendencies for good. Although I didn’t look as highly upon previous Eluvium records, when only less than a quarter of the album follows in his old fashion, it is much more tolerable.
It seems dumb to only harp largely on the vocals in a review, but Eluvium was previously a one-man instrumental show. Bringing in vocals isn’t Cooper throwing a curveball; he is dropping a genre tag altogether. Yet, it seems so fitting. Similes is still full of beautiful ambient moods, but for me personally, the vocals make me want to stick around and see the entire image Eluvium is creating.