Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re fully aware that the new La Sudar album, The Debussy Loops, is available to stream and download now. Some call it post-drone. Some call it space elevator music. We don’t know. We’re glad it’s finished. So for the next couple of weeks, while we bask in the post-release glow, we’re going to shift the spotlight over to some of the artists we’ve discovered on Bandcamp this year.
This week: Eluvium: Vigra II
Eluvium, the ambient/drone compositional project of Portland, OR artist Matthew Robert Cooper, was a favorite of ours as we waded into the deep end of the ambient and drone tags on bandcamp over the past year. Vigra I, which dropped in late 2019, was one we returned to over and over, getting lost in its soundscapes, impressed by its masterful marriage of minimalism and depth of feeling. It was no small influence on us, and with its tantalizing title, so suggestive of a forthcoming sequel, we put Eluvium on our list as one to watch.
Well, we are waiting and watching no more. This August, which has been an incredible month for ambient music, just got a little better with the release of Vigra II. This album again showcases Matthew Robert Cooper’s incredible range and intuition, giving us spectacular bursts of noise and energy so kaleidoscopic it takes multiple listens to unpack. Built around “generative music and long form loops” the Vigra series teases you with structures that suggest predictability and familiarity, but whose ultimate purposes surprise, and the end result is something new, subverting expectations of drone/ambient forms rather than fitting nicely into any particular one.
Take the opening track, Hallucination 1, which initially appears to be a drone piece built around waves of static and a looped note or two, but soon reveals itself to be not quite looped at all, and ends up being a long meditation that borders on something like live painting than anything else. This may be the generative music Mr. Cooper talks about in the album’s liner notes, but is expertly executed, giving the sense that the artist, if not specifically manipulating the tones from his palette as the piece goes, has complete control over it anyway. What could tonally be a dark, haunting piece ends up, once the method is discovered, being rather playful as a result.
Same goes for the next track, the blissfully fuzzed out noise-drama of “Scarlet Hunter”. We’re not sure if we’re drawn to these types of pieces because of the unusually hot and oppressive weather we’ve been experiencing out here in NYC, but they certainly are scratching an itch. Devastating noise crackles to life in swells and ebbs and flows, giving one just enough space to breathe as the noise recedes, before roaring back to life again. It brings to the mind of this listener the feeling being in the presence of a heavy storm rolling through, unable to fight something of such incomprehensible power, but knowing it will pass.
And pass it does. The last two tracks bring more of a traditional drift or drift-adjacent feeling to the album, working in soft melodies and synths with more traditional loop structures. “Touch Returned” is a supremely enjoyable melodic piece as is its “side two” companion, the title track, which lifts and satisfies, while bringing a little more tension to the album’s tone as it resolves.
One thing we have been amazed about while working with ambient music for the last few years is the absolutely stunning breadth of diversity when working within these nominally minimal forms. Vigra II is a fantastic example of the genre’s possibilities for innovation and individual expression. The artists who push these forms past what most people who consider their uses (“music for reading” “background music” “music to fall asleep to”) are the ones I find the most inspiring, and Cooper’s Eluvium project should be towards the top of the list when discussing such artists.
Big Congratulations to JOHN PAVLOU, the winner of the most recent Songwriting Prompt Contest! We featured him last week so go check out his song and interview. In the meantime make sure you GET ON THE MAILING LIST so you don’t miss the next one!!