Eluvium - Nightmare Ending | Album Review | By Volume

What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow. Sam Brookes - One Day


Nightmare Ending

Delicate and personal in an indefinable manner.

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Author: on May 23, 2013
Temporary Residence Limited
May 14, 2013

Seven records into an illustrious career, Matthew Cooper has finally released his definitive album. All things considered, Nightmare Ending is probably not his best work, but more than anything else, it truly represents all of Eluvium’s signatures, and feels decisively complete. His music has always been centred on creating soothing ambient music to be absorbed while dozing off or cramming for finals (possibly both simultaneously). It gently caresses the ears, politely asking to be invited in rather than barging through the front door unannounced. A few different approaches have brought about this effect across his body of work. Early on, Eluvium’s sound was deeply rooted in the minimalistic and modern classical styles, often creating sparse music consisting only of piano; elements of drone were evident from the beginning, as well, though they definitely became more pronounced on his most recent works. His previous album, 2010’s Static Nocturne, combined these styles, with some nods to noise music thrown into the mix. A concept album of sorts, that record was anchored by extended sections of white noise that would fade in and out over the course of several minutes, combining with pieces of piano music. And though he has varied his approach with each new piece of music, at the core of it has always been Cooper’s soft, simple piano melodies and inviting pieces of warm ambience.

Nightmare Ending begins as many Eluvium albums have before it: a leisurely piano line comprising pleasant major chords fades in over appealing textures of droning, comforting noise. This is his signature style, and though it has been used countless times, Cooper still avoids making it feel travelled. His skill lies in the way that he is able to create pure beauty from the simplest sounds and techniques; the music on Nightmare Ending may be minimalistic through some perspectives, but the emotions that it has the power to express are anything but minimal. In many ways, it feels like a direct sequel to his magnum opus, 2007’s Copia, in how the the songs slowly evolve from single musical ideas into flourishing soundscapes of lush noise. It is also similar to Copia in that the sounds feel decidedly big. While a significant portion of Static Nocturne and even Similes seemed to intentionally present itself as “background music”, not really meant for active listening, Nightmare Ending is full of climaxes that demand the listener’s full attention. The bottom line is still ambience, make no mistake, but certain moments on this record are so breathtakingly expansive and gorgeously arranged that it would take someone with a heart of steel to not at least take notice.

Instrumental music often runs the risk of feeling detached from explicit human emotion without having lyrics to rely on. Some even disparage ambient music as boring or robotic. Eluvium avoids all of these pitfalls wonderfully and, in particular, Nightmare Ending bleeds emotion. You can almost feel his fingers lightly brush the keys as another gentle, elegant piece evolves into a wondrous ocean of noise. It is the sound of Matthew Cooper laying himself bare for the world to see. The music is delicate and personal in such an indefinable manner, and often feels vulnerable in such a way that the music is humanized, despite its lack of human voice. Very few artists are able to make the listener understand and experience the same emotions that they do, and even fewer have the ability to pull this off without overtly spelling it out with words. This is what makes this album, and Eluvium’s music in general, so satisfying and beautiful.

Nightmare Ending is Eluvium sounding right at home, displaying all his various influences and yet daring enough to attempt to create something fresh and creative. As always, Cooper’s ability to evoke feelings of elation, joy, or relaxation through pretty simple instrumental music is the main pull here. Overall, it is not as dazzling as Copia, or as deeply engrossing and hypnotizing as Static Nocturne, but it feels like the most accurate single representation of his sound, in all its glory and vulnerability.

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