Eluvium creates dense creeping drone music seemingly imbued with powerful emotional resonances. A foray into a warm, gentle world built upon repetition and cascading melodies. It consists of incredible ambient washes of symphonic guitar, drawn out clarinet and the occasional low-key piano texture. Portland-based sound artist Matthew Cooper composes this beautiful work – it’s the kind of music you can get lost in as it swells, traversing the area between fragility and noise. It comes across as ambient, but there’ a power and violence to the music akin to the likes of Dirty Three, Mogwai or Godspeed You Black Emperor! However, unlike these artists, the structures remain much less defined and as a result, to these ears, much more powerful.
Cyclic: When you create music, do you think in terms of emotions or emotional resonances or is it a more process-orientated approach?
I try not to stick to anything when writing – but both of these things do seem to happen. Often it is easier for me to not choose beforehand what I am interested in doing musically or what restraints I should put on a piece by pursuing a specific channel inside or outside myself. I find it best to just sit down and make sounds when the interest hits me. Whether that interest is pure emotion or pure scholastics is a matter of chance. Generally, if I am overly emotive of an evening, and I try specifically to channel that into my music, I find that it seems contrived – and usually toss it away. It is when I am not forcing anything that it seems to flow.
Cyclic: Is there ever a sense of wanting to elicit or provoke a certain kind of emotion or experience in the listener?
Matthew Cooper: No. The listener has his or her own world to do with as they may, and see and hear things as they might.
Cyclic: At the risk of offending you, I’d say that many of your compositional ideas are executed quite simply. The flow and subtle developments seem to be the most important elements. Would you agree?
Matthew Cooper: I don’t find this offensive – but it is hard to say. Sometimes, I think you may be right in saying my compositions are simply executed, but in other pieces, it would be hard to agree. Perhaps it is convenient to hear my work that way, I understand that perspective, but at other times, so much energy goes into even the simplest of melodies. This is truly hard to say; perhaps it is all very simple?
Cyclic: There’ a lot of repetition in your music. What does this bring to your compositions?
Matthew Cooper: The chance to truly understand an area before passing it by; the ability to walk all the way around something before continuing on. The understanding of how truly magnificent even the slightest touches of difference can be. A moment to stop and stare blankly into ones self or one thing.
Cyclic: What do you enjoy about working with drones and elements of drone music?
Matthew Cooper: Resonation and vibration/sustain/sound seems to have so much more to offer us than we tend to use it for. For some reason, drone has been my doorway to beginning to take a look at this clearly.
Cyclic: What is it about texture that interests you?
Matthew Cooper: You can almost feel the texture you can notice it, too. It can be pleasantly disruptive. I really haven’t thought too hard about why texture interests me.
Cyclic: What does Eluvium mean to you?
Matthew Cooper: The actual definition, or the sense it has become to me? The definition is basically ‘debris from rock’. The sense it has for me is that Eluvium becomes nothingness, or everything, or slight hints of whatnot. The simple soft recognition of beauty in all things, even horrible things. Balance, the magnificence of the simple composite of all matter as we know it – and the lovely colours and shapes it has provided us with. But quite likely that would be coming to me anyway, whether the word was Eluvium, or if I had chosen Salisbury or any other nonsense word instead.
Cyclic: How did you progress to the kind of music that you are making now? Was it a natural evolution? How much was conscious decision-making?
Matthew Cooper: I don’t know if I have an understanding of it, so I suppose it was natural. I am just making sounds that I hear, or sometimes sounds that I would like to hear. I can’t really say whether there has been any conscious decision making or not.
Cyclic: Does where you record impact on your music?
Matthew Cooper: I record in my home studio. This allows me to work on my music whenever I please and for however long it takes.
Cyclic: The two albums, which make up Indecipherable Text (2004’s Lambent Material and Talk Amongst the Trees from 2005), appear to reflect one side of Eluvium. To me, your more recent albums such as When I Live by the Garden and the Sea from 2006, and this year’s Copia indicate a more structured, piano-based side to your work. Is each album a product of your exploring a sound, a feeling, an instrument, or the result of something else?
Matthew Cooper: They have genuinely just come about as they may. I’m guided to create the atmospheres that you hear on the different albums, I don’t consciously try to bring a certain sound to the work.
Cyclic: Your new album Copia takes some of the inferred orchestration of Lambent Material’ ‘There Wasn’t Anything’, and realises it with “true’ orchestra instrumentation. Is classical music part of your musical background or something you discovered through time?
Matthew Cooper: Classical music has always been around me – some of it must have spilled in! I enjoy almost all forms of music, perhaps one day they will all creep in as well, bit by bit, and note by note.
Indecipherable Text is available through Sensory/Inertia.