On his previous albums, Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper draped his instrumental music in a rockist aesthetic. Those soundscapes were charted with heavily treated guitars, but the music on Copia, his fourth, is mapped out with a more orchestral instrumental palette. Organic elements-piano, brass and strings-mingle with synths and echoing ambient atmospheres. But this instrumental shift hardly alters the course of Eluvium’s music: His songs are still painstakingly constructed and layered with sonic detail. And like his previous work, Copia is more concerned with texture and tone than with hooks or conventional song structure. In other words, Eluvium’s departure from guitar-based music is akin to him speaking in another language but still saying the same thing.
Eluvium’s strength lies in creating music that evokes a whole host of emotions. As horns hold long notes over a twinkling sheen of keys, opener “Amreik” unfurls slowly and sets the contemplative mood of the album. Like what follows, it’s produced as if the music were being transmitted from within the womb: Sounds ring out and bleed together. Such fuzzy edges don’t mean that the sound is muddied, though. Instead, they charge the music with an insular coherence.
On “Prelude for Time Feelers,” Eluvium builds on top of a delicate piano progression. With each repetition of the motif, he adds to the foundation-quivering synth strings, rumbling brass-until the initial progression sinks to the bottom of the mix, eclipsed by the whorl of accompaniments. “Seeing You off the Edges,” on the other hand, never strays from its washes of slow-motion synths. It builds in long, sustained notes, seeming at once airy and heavy with dread. The combination of emotions conjures Górecki’s “Symphony of Sorrow” as much as Vangelis’s or Eno’s film scores (whether real or imaginary). It’s almost certainly the album’s most affecting song, but is it beautiful because it breaks your heart, or vice versa?
With one foot in pop music and one in avant-garde composition, Eluvium has crafted an album that is at once immediate and accessible while deceptively complex. These instrumentals command a listener’s attention but never stoop to pop-music gimmickry. They exist in another world altogether, adrift in an echoing atmosphere.