(New Album Review) Eluvium- Nightmare Ending

Few other artists remind me of the Pacific Northwest more than Matthew Robert Cooper. In September he put out a new release for his Eluvium project (what better time for a new Eluvium than fall, after all), this one an eighty-minute-long double-album epic entitled Nightmare Ending.

I’ll just say outright that Cooper’s fine 2004 album An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death is definitely one of my all-time favorite albums by an artist from my home stomping grounds. I do hate to admit that Cooper’s music reminds me of the Pacific Northwest on account of its unrelentingly depressive tone, but it’s true. This is the music of seemingly unending months of overcast skies.

Over the years Cooper’s Eluvium project hasn’t changed too much, aside from a somewhat interesting album with vocals and percussion in 2010, Similes. To be honest, the main reason why I like An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death so much is for its deviation from the usual Eluvium sound. On most of his work for Eluvium, Cooper divides the time between piano pieces and electronic drone pieces with a preference towards the drone. That early album was exclusively made up of piano pieces. There’s something genuinely haunting about the slow, weighty chords of “Genius and the Thieves” and “The Well-Meaning Professor”, and Cooper didn’t need to fuss with electronic atmospherics or anything like that to create that beauty– just a piano.

Nightmare Ending is a real breath of fresh air. To be honest, I like it much more more than much of his earlier work,  pleasant but somewhat drab stuff like Talk Amongst the Trees and When I Live by the Garden and the Trees. On tracks like, “Covered in Writing”, “Happiness” (with a vocal part that almost sounds hopeful) and “Chime”, Cooper eases up on the somberness a little and I liked this, as his releases can become almost monochrome from all the seasonal depression. There are also three lovely, lively piano pieces on the album, “Caroling”, “Impromptu (For the Procession)”, and “Entendre”. The extended length of the album is not intended, as far as I can tell, to flesh out a concept. Even though the album is a bit much to take, there are, like I’ve said, many moments of beauty here and there, in particular on the quiet intimacy of “Caroling” and “Covered in Writing”. I can picture this as being a nice album to listen to while driving up to the coast or on headphones during a long bus ride.

Along with Will Long’s new Celer releases, I’d say that Nightmare Ending is among the better minimalist-styled releases this year, though it perhaps could have benefited from some editing-down. All the same it’s good to hear Cooper come back to making soulful music.

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