False Readings On

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False Readings On is the seventh proper full-length by ambient composer Matthew Cooper under his Eluvium moniker, not counting numerous EPs and limited releases commissioned by museums or included with art books, or both volumes of the Life Through Bombardment vinyl box sets. The album feels like a culmination of several different techniques he's explored with previous efforts, incorporating neo-classical piano melodies as well as warm, enveloping static, but ultimately he's continuing to chart new territory. The main element that sticks out on this album is Cooper's occasional somewhat jarring usage of operatic vocal samples. On several pieces, he builds up layers of wavy synthesizer drones and gliding guitars before inserting eerie, disembodied vocal trills. On opener "Strangeworks," the vocals are manipulated enough to sound like an instrument rather than a sample, but they're more recognizable on songs like "Fugue State" and "Regenerative Being." Cooper has never abandoned the shoegaze influences evident in his earliest recordings, even as his work has become more grandiose and overtly classical-inspired, and here he continues to soak his melodies in a pool of distortion without drowning them out. He takes his time building up compositions like the suspenseful, majestic "Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse," which begins with hissy (but not lo-fi) droning and melodies suggesting deep ambient techno without the beats -- not too far removed from Huerco S.'s 2016 album, For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have). The first half of the track is remarkably calm, but a heavenly chorus appears out of nowhere after four minutes, unexpectedly elevating it to the realm of the sublime. The 17-minute finale, "Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse," is even more ambitious, building up muddy loops and choral vocals, and slowly becoming more angry until it's fried in menacing distortion. Behind all of this, mournful strings swirl around, and it ends up sounding sad, lonesome, and lost. Well over a decade after the release of Eluvium's brilliant 2003 debut, Lambent Material, Cooper continues to sound inspired and inventive.

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