Inventions, the collaboration between longtime friends Matthew Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions In The Sky), have just released their second album, and it’s a dreamer’s paradise. Cooper and Smith are kings of their craft (their differing genres are closer than many might think), and the music of Maze of Woods never disappoints.
As the very appropriate words ‘I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do’ echo outwards, they represent the philosophy and the music of Maze of Woods in its entirety. “Escapers” is the perfect name for the opening track; listening to Maze of Woods is a sure-fire way to escape reality. The surge of the cool synth pulsates against the syncopated, clipped beat. As this happens, the vocal swirls in what can only be thought of as an eternal echo, surrounded by a clean, reverb-washed guitar and the promise of something special.
You’re never sure where the music’s going to go next, but you know that, wherever it ends up, it’s going to be a very, very sweet place. Their music together is a kind of magic, and you can hear the sound of both individual musicians. The syrupy synth progression, washed in its delectable harmony, is pure Eluvium, and it blends together perfectly with the cleaner, laid-back phrases of the electric guitar. For the most part, Maze of Woods is highly active, and while there’s a lot going on, it manages to keep its ambient heart. From the soft vocal sways of ‘Slow Breathing Circuit’ to the cocooned beats and the operatic vocals of “A Wind From All Directions”, nothing, it seems, is out of their grasp.
Following on from last year’s self-titled debut, their sophomore reflects its very own area; the duo mixed and produced Maze of Woods at the same house on the Oregon coastline. The music occasionally drips with the rainy vibes of the West Coast, but the clouds lift in the face of positive feelings, and it’s rinsed with quieter, reflective moments, too. “Feeling The Sun Thru The Earth At Night” has a strange choir that seems slightly disconnected, the lowered pitch tilting the music at a little angle to its altar of crystal and stone. The dull thump of the beat carries the track forward, and the pale vocal apparitions disappear over time. Cooper and Smith put creativity and imagination first as they forge new concepts and put them bravely into action. Maze of Woods is the sound of true freedom; like a street artist’s latest work, it blazes across the music. Beach House were right when they once sang the words ‘it’s a strange paradise‘. (James Catchpole)