erasing clouds

Eluvium, Talk Amongst the Trees

reviewed by dave heaton

It's easier to fall into Eluvium's Talk Amongst the Trees than to write about it. Listening to it involves feeling a genuine sense of wonder at the music; you hit play and you're immediately carried gracefully along. But writing about it? That involves self-analysis, trying to figure out why these particular instrumental, atmospheric soundscapes move you so much than most ambient music, or most music period. Writing about it would entail coming up with words to describe it, would involve trying to resist falling back in superlatives and similies, would make me fight with myself over words and how they fail me.

Perhaps that's why I've had Talk Amongst the Trees sitting around for a month and I haven't brought myself to write one word about it. It's easy to listen to it and love it, and it's easy tell people that I love it. It's harder to explain why - that involves analysis, and analysis seems so irrelevant in the face of the actual music on Talk Amongst the Trees. It's like seeing one of the natural wonders of the world and then trying to describe it in a few hundred words; where to begin?

You begin with the basics, I suppose. Talk Amongst the Trees is the third CD Matthew Cooper has released under the name Eluvium, all on the Temporary Residence label. The first, 2003's Lambent Material, was a haunting cloud of music, built with guitars that didn't sound like guitars. His second CD, 2004's An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death, broke starkly with that model - it was a solo piano record, classical in tone yet still similar to the first album in the way that patterns built into something big and involving.

Talk Amongst the Trees is more or less a return to the stylistic form of Lambent Material, yet it offers a deeper, fuller sound. It's even harder to classify and pin down, yet ultimately an even richer experience. The titles of Eluvium's songs allude to air and light, to memories and the future, to feelings of comfort and feelings of anticipation. All of these images and emotions emerge through the music itself, too, but in a way that's hard to describe. The gliding movement of the compositions brings to mind something vaporous and ineffable, like a ghost or a cloud. The textures are soft and gentle, encouraging you to fall back and drift away. Yet inside these pillows, there's slowly evolving melodies that carry with them serious emotions. It's tapping into the sort of feelings that are deeply embedded inside you. Sleep seems like an appropriate reaction to Talk Amongst the Trees, but so does crying. Yet there's something about the music that instantly calms me, and instantly cheers me up. How many albums can inspire that many strong reactions at once?

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