As one of the preeminent artists in the ambient and electronic scene, False Readings On is a welcome and much anticipated return from Eluvium (Portland’s Matthew Cooper). The feel of the music has changed slightly, because every recording has a different soul. You can label it as progress, artistic advancement, or just the willingness and the open-mindedness to branch out with new ideas and concepts, but Eluvium’s sound is still recognizable, and it’s just as gorgeous as you’d expect.
As beautiful and as heart-wrenching as Nightmare Ending was, the record indicated a bleeding of the heart; at times, it became deeply troubled music. Cracks appeared between the bars, and a light hovered over underlying fractures which threatened to engulf the album. Up until that point, Cooper’s music had largely been like a rose without a thorn, and the earthquake’s fault line signaled a shaky era dominated by tumult and turbulence, stress and overt drama. A nightmare ending gives way to a new chapter, but the music is still haunted by something.
On the surface, the road ahead is a smooth and untraveled one, but look again and you’ll see the potholes and the way that the road segues into other junctions and stutters at the stoplights as dense clusters of traffic speed past on the other side of the carriageway. False Readings On is inspired by the troubling, highly visible and very real aspects of ‘cognitive dissonance in modern society’, and the music becomes a meditation on the separation from one’s self, the injuries inflicted by self-doubt and a mind under threat from a constant, crawling anxiety. The music’s outward appearance is beautiful, but beauty isn’t skin deep. It’s a deep record, but behind its cool exterior, the music is plagued by a rain of troubles.
Eluvium’s music has always been an emotional, introverted experience, and everything you love about his music is encapsulated in False Readings On. Soft harmonies emit a slow, pulsing glow, but sometimes they shy away and retreat in on themselves, searching their own introverted hearts instead of merely pointing to, observing and studying other areas of society. The underlying electronics flow smoothly, and everything unites.
False Readings On is entangled in the slightly muddy thoughts of propaganda and emotional blackmail, belief versus reality and the subsequent pressures that pile up on the self. Later on in the record, static crawls over the music, masking itself as a creeping distrust, an uncertainty as you ponder something that used to be so certain. Expectations fade to hope. There’s a gradual dawning and a cool breeze, a refreshing of the soul. There are two very different moods on display, because in the midst of the stress you’ll find a record of extreme calm and clarity. But experiences have also permanently changed the face of Cooper’s music, and it leaves its naive shell behind for good. Life isn’t black or white; there are daily complexities and occurrences to pass through. Encounters are colored in shades of grey.
An operatic vocal embellishes the music, but it actually does more than that; frequent appearances make it an essential part of the record’s soul. Whenever they appear, the operatic vocals crystallize into something close to euphoria, uplifting the cooler melodies and rain-washed progressions and breaking free of its chains. The deeper, calm and processional organ of “Fugue State” is something that Cooper has used effectively before, and it’s cloaked in majesty here. An electronic river trickles underneath, providing the groundwork before the vocal uses it as a stepping stone. A cool feeling runs throughout the record. It’s the sound of clarity. The soaring vocal is allowed to stretch its wings, gaining some momentum despite being cut, climbing to an even higher altitude. She carries on throughout, her voice linking the tracks together, chaining the music to something bigger than itself. “Regenerative Being” is a glowing light that brightens and dims, the vocal soaring across the sun-drenched valleys of the track.
A slightly fatigued progression is partly concealed by the sound of washed-out static on “Washer Logistics”, while “Movie Night Revisited” is the sound of serenity. The music is undisturbed, like a placid body of water. A cool, rainy tone washes over “Beyond The Moon For Someone In Reverse”, and the mind can finally rest as it settles into the sleeping night. The track is an absolutely sublime outpouring of the spirit. Halfway through the track, a transcendent choir emerges, and for the first time in a long time the music settles and is completely content. The piano of “Individuation” is a relief and and an acceptance: the music’s proud in saying I am who I am. The seventeen-minute grand finale, “Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse”, is a glorious and yet dark piece. War rages between the light and the dark, between self-doubt and confident self-expression, and the earlier insecurities slowly take root in a crawling static that rises in volume until it competes with the calmer progression. It eventually fades away, and the melody has the last say. A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. Eluvium’s music reflects those struggles, but there’s beauty in every season, and, in the end, it is the beauty of it all that triumphs. (James Catchpole)
Release Date: September 2