Review Summary: Matthew Robert Cooper has something incredibly special to bestow upon listeners here.
Matthew Robert Cooper has something incredibly special to bestow upon listeners. It is the gift of feeling through music; the ability to convey emotion through subtle shifts in tone and pace. It is the ability to speak of lost love, or a forlorn feeling of loneliness without using words or vocals. His moniker Eluvium has put out heartbreakingly beautiful instrumental albums for years now, and there is no reason to put this release up as one of his finest. The glacial sounds on "Miniatures" are a perfect melding of the two main sounds that he has perfected on albums past; the piano pieces are at once strikingly haunting and starkly different than the lush soundscapes created on other tracks. The strength of this album is not that the songwriting is brilliant (which it is), but rather that the variation of the tracks allow for the progression of songs to ebb and flow perfectly without sounding to similar to each other. That is an unfortunate pitfall of many musicians that take an entire album on by themselves; each track bleeds into the next, and by the end of the album, the listener is begging for the end of the monotony. The brilliance of Cooper is that he is intelligent on this release especially in terms of choosing the right progession for the listener. The choices that were made on how the album progresses track by track allow for one to hear a gentle and heartbreaking piano melody one track, and then get hit hard by a dense, yet expansive ochestral sound with the next track. It takes away the obvious limitations of the genre, and allows for the variation to play an active role in reeling the listener in for an experience of highs and lows, rather than listening to an album that gently drowses away.
"Miniature 1" starts off as reverb-laden masterpiece. Its sorrowful nature hints at beauty and nostalgia while repeating the same structure over and over. It is wholly affecting, and swallows the listener whole. The straightforward piano piece that follows is both short and telling, as one can tell the alternating sounds of the album strategically allows for variation without it seeming to be jarring. It flows from track to track, allowing sounds of happiness and jubiliation to punctuate the beautiful melancholy. This music is for the listener that wants to get lost in music, to become a recluse in a beautiful soundscape that no one can touch for a short while. The transition from piano to organ in "Miniature 5" is nothing short of startling, but the patterns of "Miniature 4" can be detected, and one can tell that Cooper was not ready to give that gorgeous melody up quite yet. The sound of pages flapping towards the end of "Miniature 7" is precisely why this album works so well; it is the details that create world within the music. At 34 minutes in length, this album does not overstay its welcome in the least, and the brevity of most songs allow for the ideas to not become stale or overdone. In this way, it stays in your head long after the last notes fade out slowly on "Miniature 9".
There is beauty and substance to be found on this record, and it does not hide or shy away from what it really is. This is an album that people will love or hate, depending on music taste. Many may find it too subtle to enjoy, too low-key to fully embrace it as a work of art. But for those that delve into this release, many will find an album that speaks to them without words, the way that a painting will move one to tears without motion. The devil may be in the details, but the details of this release are what keeps me coming back to this album over and over again to replay the home movies of my life in my head. The trials and tribulations of adulthood are given a soundtrack here, and what a sorrowful yet redeeming one it is.