Eluvium: Nightmare Ending

A longtime staple of Temporary Residence, it’s not hard to imagine the slow-burning music of Eluvium getting less attention than the label’s bravado-heavy rock outfits like Envy, Mono, or Explosions In The Sky. Matthew Cooper’s work on the two-disc Nightmare Ending matches the potency of those groups, while taking an approach that more closely mirrors the ambient work of Brian Eno. The result is a brilliant listen for fans of this sort of thing—amid the swells of fuzzy agita, environmental noises, and barely audible plinks of percussion are compositions that become your surroundings and reveal more with every listen.

Cooper’s primary voice on this album appears to be the grand piano—it’s in the way his glacial chord progressions and melody lines tend to jut out of the eventful mess and cling to memory, often doing so while jostling with cosmic synth crescendos (“Sleeper,” “Covered In Writing”) or the towering grit of shoegazing guitars (“Chime,” “Rain Gently”). The three tunes with solo piano, furthermore, are gorgeous and break up the album’s noisy daze for simple, sparse interludes. Structures throughout are very patient: The lilting movement in “Warm,” for instance, never makes any sharp dynamic turns, instead acquiring small blips and pieces throughout its seven-minute duration; meanwhile the sound of kids playing in “Unknown Variation” is tucked beneath blanket after blanket of sound for almost 10 minutes before reaching a sudden, anticlimactic halt. Despite the slow pace, none of it succumbs to a tendency to drone or become redundant.

All that said, the true value of these songs can’t be found in the textures used or an approach taken—it’s all about the innate ability of this composer to go above and beyond the typical “film-score” vibe of ambient music and create a complete, living work. Nightmare Ending sounds a lot like a story being deliberately told, and it is to our benefit that the writer has a keen sense for the stuff in life that words can’t do justice.

In A Word: Powerful