Eluvium’s output since Nightmare Ending in 2013 has been vibrant and fruitful, and False Readings On carries on the exploratory spirit.
In 2013, Matthew Cooper released an Eluvium double album he had been assembling off and on for seven years. His output since then has been vibrant and fruitful, and False Readings On carries on that exploratory spirit.
Nightmare Ending was a creative housecleaning, summative and purging. There was also something curious about the placement of the title on the cover, so that left-to-right it could be read as “Eluvium Ending”, like it was put there as a cryptic escape clause. Not long after the book closed on Nightmare Ending, Cooper’s collaboration with Mark T. Smith of Explosions in the Sky opened up. Inventions has been a prism for Smith and Cooper’s respective sensibilities. A pair of albums and an EP poured out in two years’ worth of mutually available time, during which Eluvium continued on in a more accompanying role for an art installation in Austin (Catalin) and a book by the artist behind many Eluvium album covers, Jeannie Lynn Paske (Wisdom for Debris).
Whether change is linear or a cycle, or sometimes both, Eluvium’s presence didn’t recede for very long, and not all of the thematic ghosts appear to have been vanquished. Throughout the process of making Nightmare Ending, Cooper filed potential tracks under one of two categories that symbolically stood for either a dream or reality. Similarly, questions about the nature of reality and perception are the itch underneath False Readings On’s milky mottled skin. Here specifically Eluvium chews over the matter of cognitive dissonance and the (in)security of belief.
The album’s blurriness evokes the fog of shared experiences, how each mind remembers the same event differently, and multiple eye witness statements can be unreliable and contradictory. Cameras and recordings are just as easily subject to manipulation. Those seeking out greater truths in writing are often more likely to find them in fiction than in official historical records. What appears to be right in front of us doesn’t seem like it should be subject to debate, but if it all feels increasingly up for grabs, you’re not alone. False Readings On may pine for clarity but it does so with the understanding of how easily it slips away when caught.
These songs stretch and curl in a state between nature and construction like oblong Spiral Jetties. Shifts are so gradual, so subtle, that even on close listen it is hard to pinpoint exactly when they begin. Music is defined by time and its passing more than most other art forms, but False Readings On comes close to existing outside of it. “Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse” is only 17 minutes long if you’re watching the clock. The same fluidity applies to “Drowning Tone” and its single spin of the second hand. Beginnings and endings happen here only because the three-dimensional world demands it.
Along with that loosened grip on time, there is a kind of rawness on this record that hasn’t felt as near to the surface since Talk Amongst the Trees or debut Lambent Material, though all three are otherwise quite distinct from one another. It’s not as easy to read an album when it opts to not make use of spoken language, but something in the album’s preoccupation with tone and space -- lots of space, that is -- before melody and structure translates into vulnerability. This comes to a head on “Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse”, lined with tape hiss, as it comes to a near halt early on – which on first listen feels like an accident left in the recording – before rediscovering its momentum.
Vocals, or approximations thereof, come to take an almost surprising presence, but, whether it’s “Regenerative Being”, with its intermittent soprano peaking like an old opera broadcast bounced back to this planet from the next galaxy over, or the spectral choral samples on “Movie Night Revisited”, they are as fleeting as they are focal. All together, False Readings On is not without weight and form, but it does leave an outsized impression for the mass it wields.