Eluvium is the project of one Matthew Cooper. He has been making ambient music for a few years now, and his latest record, Copia has been gathering a lot of great press. As a fan of ambient music, i made an effort to track this down. And, well, i must confess that i don't understand hype. I mean, really -- what the heck people are thinking? This record has been hailed by many as the best ambient release in years, and yet, well, when you get down to it, this record is very derivative. For every track on this disc, i can pull two or three CDs down off the shelf that sound pretty much the same.
Don't believe me? Let's go through the tracks then.
Amreik. This tune is built out of samples that replicate a pipe organ, those huge, cathedral-filling instruments key to memories of so many Catholic childhoods. I know people who will hate this from the first notes just because it contains a sound that reminds them of Clergymen. I, personally, found organ music to be my favorite part of Mass. This is a decent organ piece, but the sampled organ is thin and wheezy compared to some of the great recordings out there these days of real pipe organs. I have at least two Virgil Fox CDs that feature that master of the pipe organ playing on huge instruments. Imagine this song, only more spacious. And with a hint of Bach thrown in...
Indoor Swimming At The Space Station and Seeing You Off The Edges are
straight up mid-90s, beatless ambient keyboard pieces. Spacetime Continuum,
The Orb, Higher Intelligence Agency, Biosphere, and then even further back
to Vangelis and Tangerine Dream... i have lots of this sort of thing. Eluvium
does it passably well.
And then the record takes a sharp turn into inner space. Prelude For Time Feelers starts off with straight up piano, and eventually layers in some strings. It's a pretty tune, very well done. Requiem On Franfurt Ave. continues with the keys and strings. Both of these pieces work. The second, in particular, sounds a lot like Stravinsky.
Radio Ballet is, basically, George Winston. Seriously -- is this a cover? Wasn't this on December? Nice, but old George did it better.
And then ... well, you get the picture. Eluvium has blended together a lot of different types of keyboard music into one disc. The variety is nice, in that the change of keyboard tone keeps things pretty interesting. However, well, we have a case of quantity over quality here. In pursuing many different keyboard styles, he does each well, but none wonderfully. George Winston just played piano, and he was great at it. Vangelis only did synthesizers, and he was a master. Eluvium does lots of stuff, but is master of none.
And then, well, after a while i start thinking, "Where did i put those crystals i found back when i was packing to move?" Yes, i lived through the 80s. Yes, i lived with a woman who was into New Age -- meditation circles, burning sage, the whole deal. And yes, i inexplicably found a box of old crystals when packing to move a few months ago. And, yes, Eluvium has made the best New Age record since George Winston covered A Charlie Brown Christmas (and that was back in 1996 if you can believe it!).
I always thought that New Age was unhip, and yet here are thousands of hipsters singing the praises of a New Age album. Look, seriously people, there is good stuff in this genre. Go and check out anything by George Winston, or Hiroshima, or Vangelis, or Tangerine Dream, or Latitude.
I can't help but wonder: will crystals be making a comeback as well? Dear lord -- i don't think i can take burning sagebrush again!