Matthew Cooper's latest album as Eluvium cements his reputation as one of the leading ambient composers of the moment. "Copia" sees him trade his effected guitars in for a full orchestral palette. Its straightforward, minimalist ideas and varied textures make this one of the most warm and approachable ambient albums I've heard. Thick string pads swelling and sweeping, stately organs, and little piano figures rocking backwards and forwards, and the occasional sound-effect interlude, it's sunny and relaxed but manages to avoid easy-listening.
The impression is of conventional classical music blurred and distorted very subtly. Simple fuzzed-up string chord sequences such as "After Nature" remind me of Brian Eno's experiments with Pachelbel's "Canon". The less interesting bits of "Copia" are the little piano solos, like "Radio Ballet" . They're pretty but they're bits of fluff, and don't do much more than Michael Nyman did on his "The Piano" soundtrack. On "Prelude for Time Feelers", it's welcome when the solo piano figure is fleshed out bit by bit with luminous string and brass sounds.
There's reminders here that rockier bands often use these kind of atmospherics to colour conventional songs. The gentle brass band of "Amreik" recalls "Broken Heart", the tearful ballad from Spiritualized's neo-psychedelic classic "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space". The harmonies of "Ostinato" seem to be lifted from Brian Eno's swelling keyboard intro to U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name", which has become an ambient cliche. OK, Eno is the godfather of ambient, but there's no need for people to continue copying his most famous bit of production!
July 31, 2007