Eluvium

Eluvium - Shuffle Drones

 
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Matthew Cooper aka Eluvium continues to innovate his approach to ambient music, albeit this time, not in style but in form. 

I commented on his last album, False Readings On as yet another new take on the sound we had him down for as the album slowly transgressed into a power-house of angelic vocals and heart-tugging drones. For his next masterpiece, Matthew has stripped the actual music down to a very simple, cinematic sound and embraced today's most annoying habit, the 'shuffle'; building each track so it fits in sequence no-matter what order the album is played. 

For someone who respects the sequencing of albums, especially when it comes to something as considered as ambient music, the concept presents an interesting juxtaposition - one I hadn't really considered before as an actual output for an album. 

In a similar approach to Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers generative app (and album) Reflection,  you're now presented with an endless possible combination of music. The difference here compared to Eno's album, is that Matthew has been very forthright in embracing today's listening patterns and pushing the Spotify/streaming versions to encourage shuffling (as opposed to locking it behind a very expensive app...) And whilst the output isn't as inconspicuous as Eno's liquid meditation - Shuffle Drones has a very distinct 32-second pattern - it's just as magical when you put it into practice as the slow and beautiful swells wash over you again and again. 

Available to buy on Bandcamp, and stream everywhere else - give it a go below. 

Listen to Eluvium's isolatedmix here celebrating his last album, False Readings On.

 

The Thesis Project: a lesson in craft

 

We're big fans of craft when it comes to physical releases. We've gone so far as creating custom wooden CD and vinyl cases for previous releases here at ASIP, and often spend more time discussing artwork than the actual music when it comes to each release. So to see Gregory Euclide pushing forward a truly custom take on physical vinyl releases, we wanted to find out more, especially given the music at hand. 

The Thesis Project was triggered by a deep desire to bring something valuable back into a world of fast consumption, as Gregory began during a recent twitter conversation: "music has always been an object and not just files on a device. I wanted to make music physical, unique and precious again". As an artist behind some well known releases from Erased Tapes and Lubomyr Melnyk, this was Gregory's chance to combine his passion for art and music: "I see the world in musical terms... everything has a sound. Colors, movements... every sound has an action... and that is where I worked for a long time. I was making music with my pencils and brushes. I think it is pretty common for artists to have this connection. I tried to play music when I was in high school and college. I'm not mathematically gifted. I really struggle with it. So, my college music theory class was really hard for me. I think I thought it was out of the picture for me... to be involved in music in any other capacity than a consumer. I did a few album covers for musicians I really respected, but I still felt outside of it all.

When I think about my practice as an artist, I often try to mirror that of the music world. I like how musicians can have different projects, with different names. Artists always seem to be... just them, their name and they have to be consistent. Basically, my move to music through Thesis Project was a move away from the traditional idea of being an artist".

As with all deep desires and ambitions, it took a couple of real-life moments to push Gregory to begin the Thesis Project. Whilst attending a Vic Chestnutt concert, Gregory started wondering how much it would cost to commission a song from such an artist, after which he received a grant from the McKnight Foundation for his artwork, and decided to take his work into a new direction:

"I decided I would start asking musicians that I know if they would like to work on a project. When I am listening to certain musicians I think 'this would be really cool with this or that.' I started thinking about the idea of collaboration as a way to push something forward".

The Thesis Project was born, with the premise to combine two artists who have never worked together before and create a beautifully packaged, and custom release, with each sleeve laser-cut and etched by Gregory himself. Whilst this may seem like a tall ambition, given each piece would be custom and limited to 300 pieces, Gregory knew this was the only way he would be able to fulfill his burning ambition for the project.

"I don't really like the idea of me being the only visual artist for the project. One goal of the project was to try and compensate the artists well. Pay them up front and then give whatever extra is left from sales. This seems to be a successful model as musicians I have spoken with like the arrangement. In order for me to do that I have to do much of the artwork. I make each jacket and sleeve from scratch as well as make each of the unique covers. If I had to pay another artist to do that it would not be possible. So, for now, I'm doing it. I hope people don't get sick of it or think it is an ego thing".

I asked Gregory why he feels each piece needs to be unique, after all, from my experience, a premium, differentiated and highly-considered piece of artwork is enough to make something much more valuable in today's world. But his desire to create something individual stemmed from a desire to go against today's mainstream approach to music. It's his way of giving back to the artists, and to the listener, and leaving something truly unique in the world. 

"Handmade is not a big deal to me in general. If something can be made better with a machine... I think, why not use that. When it comes to music it is different. Much of the project's concept comes as a reaction to my own life. I was eating up albums, buying them online, listening to them, buying more... downloading and downloading. I didn't even know what I had and what I didn't have. I wanted it everywhere. I wanted it free or cheep. It was gross. I wanted to pay attention again. To know the names of songs, to stop and listen, not just have it on as I was doing things. So, I decided it was going to be vinyl only. No streaming. No downloading. No on the go. The process of making the album covers takes over 2 hours a piece. I cut the paper, run the sleeve through the laser cutter, put a drawing on the sleeve, spray a stencil over the drawing, fold and glue the sleeve. I cut the paper, run the jacket through the laser cutter, put a unique painting on the cover, fold and glue the jacket. It is hard work. It is my way to make something that is the opposite of Spotify. It is my payment to the artists. To give them something unique. It is my payment to the music. Music can be turned into 10100001100010110101 and duplicated and deleted and downloaded again and so on. But I wanted to make something that people are careful with. I don't want it to be goofy or over the top. Just hand made because I care".

A wide spectrum of ambient, experimental and alternative stars have been a part of the project so far. Taylor Deupree and Sean Carey (of Bon Iver) graced the Thesis Project's first release, with Loscil & Seabuckthorn following, Sonic Pieces' Takeshi Nishimoto & City Centre Offices' Roger Döring (Dictaphone), Dustin O´Halloran* & Benoît Pioulard, gracing the catalog so far. As if that wasn't enough, the project has also announced collaborations between some ASIP favorites (and artists) including Rafael Anton Irisarri & Julianna Barwick, and Michael Price (Erased Tapes) & Christoph Berg and (it just keeps going), Eluvium & Marcus Fischer. If that list of artist collaborations isn't enough to persuade you of the project's ambition and curatorial skills, then I don't know what is. 

Gregory's curatorial process is based loosely on who he may see as an interesting fit, but mainly because he sees something greater coming from the two parts. As Gregory describes, "I ask these people to work together because I think it is going to be meaningful... to them, to us. When I hear it, it is like... "ok, I was right" Taylor and Sean's work - the first one I did... was over the top. It was so satisfying. They liked it. I liked it. It was a win win. Nothing beats that feeling". 

It's undoubtedly a challenge, defying the norms and akin to the format and approach, bringing something new to an otherwise fast-paced, ephemeral world, but these pairings aren't taken lightly and it takes Gregory a while to think of who would work well together. His dream pairing being Beth Gibbons and Justin Vernon, but until that works out, Gregory's trying to push the boundaries on a classic ambient approach that could quickly become a stale recipe: "I'm always hoping for musicians to take the opportunity to shed a skin, try something new, be totally open. I have a group of amazing musicians that I have not paired up yet, because I don't want the sound to be tired. I don't want to repeat the sound over and over again. I could do piano and ambient things till the end of time, but I'm looking for there to be a little something new in each of the releases."

Once he has decided on the duo, he'll make a graphic for each musician before they make the music: "It is kind of based on what I love about their work... how it makes me feel".  From that, he develops the cover, adding things to the mix based on what comes back music-wise.

The vinyl sleeve artwork is abstract enough, but if you look closely, you'll notice the ongoing theme between them all, with Gregory taking contour drawings of each musician's hand and the city where they reside into consideration. 

Gregory's ambition doesn't stop solely with the Thesis Project concept, with a similar but subtle concept Print/Track also gathering pace. Slightly different to the Thesis Project, Print/Track  features a musician completing one side of a 10" by themselves in response to a work by a visual artist. Or alternatively, a visual artist responds to the work of a musician. The first release out of the blocks comes from Ed Carlsen and Heather Woods Broderick

With two base-concepts, a host of amazing artists and all of the artwork falling on Gregory's lap, he's undoubtedly a busy man pushing through a very labor-intensive project. Thesis Project is a platform built entirely with the artists in mind. Funding is set-up to help everyone involved (you buy through a subscription), and Gregory is committed to doing most of the hard work to keep costs down.

It's projects like this that help push ambient and experimental music forward as a whole, whilst also raising awareness for lesser-known artists, now given an esteemed platform to express their works. It's a celebration of the format, showing the world what hard-graft, a focus and a passion for music and artwork can get you. And it's a big middle-finger to the way everyone thinks things should be done. You can move slowly. You can control it all yourself. You can spend more time on the artwork than the music if you wish. You can even fulfill dreams of seeing some of your musical heroes on the same record together. Thesis Project is proof. 

https://thesisproject.us/

 

ASIP - Reflection on 2016

 

2016 was a busy year! The label started with the Arovane & Hior Chronik Remix EP, then Merrin Karras' glorious synthesizer piece, Apex. And more recently, the much-desired 36 album, The Infinity Room.  It was also a very sad year in many ways, with ASIP artist, Igor Bystrov aka Parks, passing away. The In Memory EP, featuring a collection of his works was also released, with all proceeds going to Igor's family. Thank you to everyone who supported the label and the artists throughout 2016 - I can't express how grateful I am to have such an amazing bunch of listeners and supporters.

It was an amazing year for music. I was overwhelmed for the most part, and didn't get round to writing about half as many albums as I would have liked to. But my yearly Reflections mix goes some way in helping soothe my guilt and pain. Featuring many of my favorite tracks from some of my favorite albums and releases from the year, it's my version of the infamous journo 'best-of' list but presented in the best way possible I start with a playlist including one track from every album I've enjoyed over the year, and then whittle it down, based on what sounds right in the mix and ultimately, what I've been listening to the most. It goes without saying, this only scrapes the surface of the many great albums and releases we've been treated to in 2016.

A quick run down of the inclusions in this years mix...

Sad Elron, the one track I spent the year looping, was the standout in one of this years best albums from Mark Pritchard. Bvdub surprised us with a selection of shorter-than-normal cuts, and potentially his best album yet. The Green Kingdom is this years under-the-radar gem, cutting up dubby-ambient and post-rock. Steve Hauschildt topped the year of the synthesizer, as did Phaeleh, with outstanding albums on both fronts. ASC made a sneaky retro-electronica appearance as Comit. Synkro enlisted the best for his remix EP - with Helios providing a glorious take, alongside a superb album of his own. Jesse Somfay returned after over 5-years with a unique and exciting new album. Segue turned in da-dub as usual on the ever-brilliant Silent Season. Isan made a return with their quirky melodic electronica. The Orb made an attempt to out-chill-out the Chill Out. Ametsub dropped a sneaky jazz-infused ambient piece. Tangent proved the newcomer of the year on n5MD. Jóhann Jóhannsson should be on the front-cover of Time magazine as man of the year with his outstanding score for Arrival and another complete masterpiece in Orphée. Heck got the remastering and reworking of choice by Field Rotation's Christopher Berg. Ocoeur got our year off to a stunner with his modern-classical masterpiece. Eluvium won the hearts of everyone with his operatic tearjerker. Drape kept Infraction's continually brilliant ambient output up-to-scratch. Warmth treated us to one of the years best ambient surprises. Deepchord turned in one of the years best remixes - out-ambienting Wolgang Voigt's flip. Benoit Pioulard broke his wrist and showed us how to remix Aphex Twin. Porya Hatami and Arovane joined forces once again book-ending their ASIP remix EP.  And lastly, as a special tribute, we end the mix on one of my favourite tracks by Park from 2009 - RIP.

And breathe. Enjoy the look back.

Download.

Tracklist:

01. Mark Pritchard - Sad Alron [Under The Sun] (Warp)
02. Bvdub - 07 [Yours Are Stories Of Sadness] (Self)Read the review
03. The Green Kingdom - Haze Layers [Harbor] (Dronarivm) 
04. Steve Hauschildt - Time We Have [Strands] (Kranky) Read the review
05. Phaeleh - Frequency [Illusion of The Tale] (Undertow) Read the review
06. Comit - Under Your Spell [Trip 01] (Warm Communications) Read the review
07. Synkro - Midnight Sun (Helios Remix) [Changes Remix EP] (Apollo)
08. Jesse Somfay - Chorona (A Voice Like Sunshine) [Levamentum] (Tipping HandRead the review
09. Segue - Deep Valley [Over The Mountains] (Silent Season
10. Isan - Lace Murex [Glass Bird Movement] (MorrRead the review
11. The Orb - 4am Exhale [COW] (Kompakt)
12. Ametsub - Skydroppin' [Skydroppin' EP] (Blueberry Records)
13. Tangent - Perceived Horizon [Collapsing Horizons] (n5MD)
14. Jóhann Jóhannsson - Heptapod B [Arrival OST] (Deutschegrammophon)
15. Hecq - Night Falls (reworked by Christopher Berg) [Night Falls] (Hymen Records)
16. Ocoeur - Fixo 2 [Reversed] (n5MD) Read the review
17. Eluvium - Fugue State [False Readings On] (Temporary ResidenceRead the review / mix
18. Drape - Detrial Rest [Let There Water Air] (Infraction)
19. Helios - Land Father [Remembrance] (Unseen Music) Read the review
20. Warmth - Odessa [Essay] (Archives) Read the review / mix 
21. Peter Michael Hamel - Colours of Time [Reinterpreted] (Deepchord’s Carolina Forest Mix) Read the review
22. Benoit Pioulard - Stone In Focus [Radial] Read the review / mix
23. Porya Hatami & Arovane - iaan [Kaziwa] (Time Released Sound
24. Jóhann Jóhannsson - Flight From The City [Orphée] (Deutschegrammophon) Read the review
25. Parks - Eternal Wind [Hidden] (Infraction - 2009)

[Artwork / photo taken on a trip to Japan in August 2016]

 

isolatedmix 64 - Eluvium

 

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.

Download.

Tracklist:

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. 

Do you ever have a dream that upon waking stays with you all day and makes you feel a little off about things?
— Eluvium

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.