Every now and then an album comes along that helps you witness the never-ending journey and evolution of music. Limitless, creative and inspiring, Matthew Cooper, aka Eluvium has consistently pushed the boundaries of his sound since his debut back in 2003, and his latest album, False Readings On, is perhaps his finest jump into the unexpected deep waters of ambient music.
It's an album that draws on contradictions, stark contrasts and a range of ingenious sound approaches, varying from experimental drones, to poised, angelic vocals. It's a subtle jolt in every direction; just when you thought you had him down; Matthew comes surging over the top with a dense smack in the face, full of deep textures and spine-tingling operatic highs.
With such an avid following after years of solid work, both as himself, and as part of Inventions (alongside Mark T Smith of Explosions In The Sky) it has been a dream of mine to see an Eluvium isolatedmix. Just like each of his albums, I would be wondering on his particular angle, inspirations and approach to any extended journey he might dive into. Without him saying so, Matthew's isolatedmix draws a strong comparison to False Readings On; juxtaposing, surprising and uninhabited, full of moments of beauty and of course, new and unique edits on old styles.
I also got the chance to ask Matthew a few questions, so press play on the mix and jump below to find out what Pixar, Portland and the Opera are doing within the world of Eluvium.
False Readings On is now available on Temporary Residence.
"So, I guess I was interested in building a sort of haunting but comforting place. I wanted to feel like, as a listener, I was being pulled from dream to dream, or scene to scene, almost like the Kurosawa film “Dreams” . A mixture of melodies and feelings from the past all floating by. I also really enjoy the juxtaposition of old vocal stuff and more drone-noise stuff. I think they go well together, and I was really in the mood for some drone noise sounds from a few of my old favorites. I did some mild “toying” with some of the tracks, pretty subtle… but I wanted to carry it that much more into a strange and obfuscated realm, and it helped blend a few things together too. Quite a few of the pieces are considerably shortened in order to help with the flurry of various images and feelings blending together.
Thanks for listening and caring. It was enjoyable to put together. I like making things like this.” - Matthew Cooper/Eluvium.
1. Rain & Static
2. Valley Of The Giants - Whaling Tale (Momentary Excerpt) [s/t]
3. Scott Tuma - Untitled 4 [The River 1,2,3,4]
4. Moondog - Cuplet [s/t]
5. Eluvium - False Readings On [False Readings On]
6. Chris Smith - Replacement (Excerpt) [Map Ends 1995-2001]
7. Billie Holiday - Please Tell Me Now (Softly Confuzzled Mix) [Collection]
8. James Ferraro - Memory Theater (Excerpt) [Marble Surf] + Chant De Meule / Milling Song - Unknown Vocalists [Music Of The Ouldeme]
9. The Ink Spots - To Each His Own [Greatest Hits] + Csengeri - Thunderstorm Field Recordings, + John Cage / Stephen Drury - Dream (Excerpt) [In A Landscape]
10. Dinah Shore - When I Grow To Old To Dream (Gently Warbled Mix) [In Person With Dinah Shore]
11. Eluvium - Regenerative Being [False Readings On]
12. The Ronettes - Be My Baby (Slightly Melting Mix) [Best Of The Ronettes]
13. Thomas Newman - OJ Savice [In The Bedroom OST] + Croatian Folk Song +
Eluvium - Drowning Tone [False Readings On]
14. Gavin Bryars - The Sinking Of The Titanic [Obscure Records Edition]
~ Interview ~
Hi Matthew. Many thanks for taking the time to speak alongside your stunning isolatedmix. Your new album is probably my favorite release of yours so far and it sounds like it is for many other people. How are you feeling about it all so far? Happy with the response? Was it easy to get this one finished out of the studio?
Thank you for saying that, and YES. It really seems like people are responding quite strongly to the album. I’m never sure what to expect but I’m genuinely surprised by the positive thoughts people are sending my way. It makes me happy to know that so many people can connect with it.
As far as getting it out and finished etc… it was a pretty difficult ride for me. I went through some bits of anxiety and distress during the process of making this one. Things are getting better now though and it feels good.
I remember reading that you holed yourself up to create an Inventions album. Where was this one conceived? How long did it take?
Yes, for the Inventions records (so far at least) we have always gone to a house on the Oregon coast and created and recorded and mixed while looking out at the ocean.
This album was made in my home studio in its entirety. I believe the process from start to finish was probably close to a year or year and a half. I do take breaks to sleep and eat and walk the dogs though. Honestly it would be nowhere near that long that if I was actually always working in the studio. Lots of time is spent waiting too. I’ve never been the type of person that can just go into a studio over a few days and complete a record that I would be happy with… or maybe I could, but I doubt it. I really like to take a long amount of time to focus and finesse things and write pieces as they come and let the songs grow and have it all take place in the studio. So doing so in my own place makes the most sense.
I see the album as a very unique sound when it comes to the majority of ambient/experimental music out there right now. Was there an overarching idea behind the album and its approach? Did you set out to make something very different?
I did set out to make something different. I feel like it is a little more aggressive than anything I’ve done in the past. It also has darker themes throughout, which is new to me as I’ve usually tried to stay in the positive spectrum with my music. The overarching ideas are themes of perspective, perception, belief, misinformation, cognitive dissonance, and confirmation bias within our individual selfs and as a society. And what these things do to the nature of the human being.
I can sense the stark contrasts, from washes of heavy drones, to piano and atmospheric orchestral elements. Can you tell us a little bit about the thinking behind this approach?
I generally don’t think to much about these things on an album basis. As the album just naturally creates itself for me. I do think along these lines on a song by song basis, though. I tend to try to have an understanding of what I’m trying to convey once I have some bare bones laid down, and choose instrumentation based off of what I feel would best communicate that feeling. Sometimes it is also just throwing a ton of things into a mix and finding out what works and what doesn’t. If I have a melody line in mind, I sometimes know exactly what I want it to be played on. But sometimes I just have to play it on lots and lots of instruments and figure out which one actually feels best and most natural.. or most confusing, if that is the feeling I want to convey.
You’re obviously a talented multi-instrumentalist; what types of instruments, software and hardware were used in the making of the album? Do you have a favorite?
I was using a great many keyboards both modern synthesizers and broken old Casio's and Yamaha's. It also involved modular synthesis, quite a few VST synthesizers, some blank tapes and statics and wow and flutter from them, field recordings, samples, and some Youtube. The modular synth is my current favorite. I’ve been enjoying using it for many different purposes for the past year or so. Beyond its application to any recordings, I just find it very peaceful to sit with and develop sounds on, and then just sit and listen for a while, and maybe make small changes, and then destroy it. It is like burning a painting after completion, or like a Tibetan Sand Mandala.
There are lots of voices and operatic vocals featured in the album and they add a beautiful, unexpected element to the recording. What was the thinking behind these inclusions? Are you a fan of Opera?
I had two purposes for the lyrics. One was to ensure that there was a purity and richness that could reach out above the chaos and noise, but I also had specific words and sentences that I wanted to include throughout the album. They were created by taking samples of very very old recordings. I had some words that I translated into Latin and Italian, and then took the samples apart note by note and put them together to phonetically sound out the “libretto” of the album. I wasn’t always able to perfectly hit it, without sacrificing some musicality, so I’d let the music lead me. But i didn’t want the sounds to be meaningless. I knew no one would ever understand them, but it was important that they carried weight. I do like opera. I’m not a huge fan or anything. I like the Arias. Doesn’t everyone like the Arias?
You mention dreams in your mix inspiration, was this also the case for the album?
Dreams were not the direct inspiration, as I mentioned before about the concepts for the album. But I do think that they very much play a role in creating confusion within us and how we think we might feel about things. Do you ever have a dream that upon waking stays with you all day and makes you feel a little off about things?
Your music has recently been described as pop ambient, maximalism and ultimately, experimental. How do you continue to push the boundaries with your sound and approach? Do you set-out to make a distinct sound or is it purely experimental in approach?
I’m not sure. I guess it is very much experimental in my approach, and my consideration of what themes I will be looking at. But I think there is also an inherent “me” that will always show up and that is the connecting fabric of everything I do. Also - quite simply, I get bored easily with whatever it is I’ve just done and simply want to try something different that I haven’t done before. Sometimes these changes are subtle and sometimes they are more dramatic. It isn’t quite so “planned” as some people/reviewers tend to think. I just go with the flow. Resistance is futile. I’d just consider myself lucky enough that people still care and enjoy what I do. I know I haven’t made it an easy ride to follow, but it isn’t purposeful, it is just wanderlust, I think. People try to draw a deeper picture than necessary when it comes to the route taken.
So, Portland. I lived there for 3 years up until a year ago (I'm gutted I didn’t bump into you or see you at a show!) The ambient scene was great though, with some really amazing people making it happen. Do you enjoy what’s going on there? Is it somewhere you’ll call home for a while?
Haha. You should’ve just gone to the book store. I was probably in the fiction section.
As far as enjoying what is going on here. Absolutely, there is always very interesting music coming out of this area and the community is really great and for the most part supportive. But things change and the city gets bigger and loses some of those things along the way. It is the nature of life. Honestly, I don’t even get out very much here. I’ve never truly felt like a part of the music scene at all, but that has less to do with the scene and more to do with my social anxieties. Nonetheless, yes, with all the changes occurring and rapidly destroying the old town I loved so dearly, it is still home to me, and it will probably still be home to me once the cool points fade away too. — I’d like to travel and take in some other cities more though. Live in Europe for a while, etc… but the Pacific Northwest will probably always be home, in one way or another.
Is that the sound from the film 'Contact' at the end of 'Fugue State’?!
It is the sound of the transmission they receive which include the plans to build the wormhole machine.
Lastly, based on your track title ‘Movie Night Revisited’, what’s playing at your house when we all come over for a film night?
hmmm….so many to choose from… I’d probably start with something from Pixar. Then move into the dark comedy “The ‘Burbs” starring the more early physical comedy of Tom Hanks, and finish off with “My Dinner With Andre”. Those are probably my 3 favorites ( with the Pixar one changing title from time to time). But I’m also really into anything late 1940s or late 30s - so maybe “You Can’t Take It With You”, or “The Thin Man” series, or “Larceny Inc.” We’d be up all night. Why not Kurosawa’s “Dreams” while we’re at it.