The great American writer Frederick Buechner once described vocation as “where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” A difficult concept simply described, it’s an ideal those privileged enough to pursue often find unattainable. Matthew Cooper is one of the few who could claim to come close. The ambient and classical works he releases as Eluvium are an obvious joy to him in all their painstaking humility, born of the type of industry that comes from hours lost to the world absorbed in a calling. The musical worlds he has built have been a source of comfort to a great many. Enchanting portals to reflect and withdraw, and often ultimately heal. It’s curious, the unexpected places we find our joys meet the needs of the world, and in Cooper’s case his most recent work felt like providence. Intended as a personal stop-gap endeavor between major projects, his Virga series was announced innocuously at the beginning of 2020. In an anxious year that hobbled from one uncertainty to the next, many found relief in the soothing generative drones of Virga I, and a new purpose was found in a simple joy.
Named for the meteorological phenomenon, when precipitation sublimates before reaching the ground, the music of Virga exists in a kindred evaporative state. Occupying some intangible realm between substance and void, it folds and shifts, gaseous in nature and ever transforming to new apparitions. While Cooper has always worked with this sort of slowly expanding drone music, this is him taking an intentional step away from the more direct compositions of his previous releases. The Virga records are his experiments with long-form loops creating generative drones, designed to organically evolve of their own accord, building entire universes around their humble beginnings. In this sense, there’s no substantial distinction between Virga II and its predecessor from last year. Virga I remains a little more melodic perhaps, but really they are exercises in mood and texture. Discrete experiences born of their environment, grown and disseminated across a million unique moments.
Often described as worlds or environments, the works of Eluvium feel like spaces we inhabit. The compositions of Virga II gradually solidify, almost undetectable in their assemblage, the hypnotic loops embedding themselves in the subconscious and dissipating reality in place of another of one’s own making. There is a journey of sorts, from the haunting darkness of “Hallucination I” and “Scarlett Hunter,” an emergence slowly ascends through “Touch Returned” and “Virga II,” the rich pastel drones etched in light. But it’s a journey of spirit if anything—what lingers here is the sense of stillness that lies in the continual ebb and flow. It’s always tempting to turn to images of water when it comes to music like this—ocean waves, rippling rivers or, as Cooper imagines, gentle dissolving rain—unyielding entities in constant motion. In this way these pieces are gently immersive, filling all space, always beautiful even at their most disquieting. Wresting between the organic invocations of the sounds themselves and the synthetic tools of their creation, they gently wash before evaporating again into mist as virga, uncertain if they were ever there at all.
To call a record like Virga II balm or comfort almost feels a disservice. Certainly it’s designed as a translation of something other than anxiety in the wake of the uncertainty of recent times. But what Eluvium provides moves beyond mere peaceful sounds to take one’s mind off things. It’s a translation into new worlds, both real and imagined, possible and dreamlike. He has always done this with his work, but there’s a lingering intensity here born of circumstance and methodology. These loops don’t feel created but tended, seeds of ideas allowed to grow into whatever we need them to be. Places of rest, of restoration, of connection to that ineffable resonance that binds all together. Existing within that perfectly balanced ever-evolving swirl of waves and particles, frequencies within which all sense of self, space and time reside. In a world divided and fragile, to capture this feels like its greatest need. Fortunate are we to share in Eluvium’s greatest joy.
Label: Temporary Residence
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Will has been contributing to Treble since 2018. Music and writing are the foils to his day job. Apart from Treble, he has contributed to Drowned in Sound, Glide Magazine and Indieshuffle. He also plays music and blogs when time permits.