Nightmare Ending

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An ambient composer with an indie perspective, Matthew Cooper has been recording under the moniker Eluvium since his 2003 debut, Lambent Material. With seventh album Nightmare Ending, Cooper drifts into his tenth year with the project in grand style, presenting a double album and arguably his finest moment. Always meticulous and insular, Eluvium's tuneful drones have often garnered comparisons to Brian Eno's ambient work, and piano-centered compositions like the stoic "Caroling" and ominously atmospheric "Sleeper" certainly back up the reference point. Alternately, the stuttering, rolling looped strings and soft undertones of "Warm" bear more in common with both the slow-motion pacing of William Basinski and a more organic take on Belong's fuzzy ambience than they do Eno's often distant and academic pieces. Cooper's ability to infuse a very human emotional arc into his wordless sheets of sound is a large part of what's made his body of work so captivating. Electronic webs meet with patient piano moments throughout Nightmare Ending, sometimes casting heavy shadows of fear or pain, other times offering relief from that very pain. Crashing waves of distortion play largely into some of the pieces, with the nearly nine-minute-long "Rain Gently" raising the noise floor so high it becomes a peaceful din that organic instruments sit playful on top of rather than drown in. These experiments with orchestrated noise have fantastic results, putting Cooper in a class with soundscape artists like Tim Hecker, Emeralds, and many on the Type Records roster. Final track "Happiness" stands out as an anomaly, with detached tuba tones, deep piano, and plinky guitars cycling through a simple chord progression until Yo La Tengo vocalist Ira Kaplan comes in to sing the massive album's only vocal. The song feels like a definitive (if somewhat unexpected) endpoint to the truly epic collection of tones, turmoil, joys, and hardships spelled out over the course of Nightmare Ending. Much as struggle and relief become implied themes of the album, the closing track sits just outside the narrative, implying the same closure as the postlude of a novel after the final chapter.

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