At the tail end of 2019, Matthew Robert Cooper released Virga, his 11th full-length album under the moniker of Eluvium. While it’s unclear if a sequel was part of the original plan, Virga II is now available, and it seems like a crucial, almost vital extension of that earlier album. It seems hardly necessary to mention that the months between the releases of Virga and Virga II have been a harrowing mess for the world, and Cooper’s latest album provides a fitting kind of balm for the uncertainty and anxiety of these pandemic times.
The ambient droning that greeted listeners the first time around is back and more welcome than ever. The three-part “Hallucination I” that opens Virga II is indicative of the type of swirling sustained industrial sound block that has been Cooper’s stock in trade. The music has a sort of “brown noise” effect, but it pulses deeply like a peaceful monster intended to protect and soothe. Variety is not the intention here, but the relative predictability and immovability of the pieces provide a sort of stoic presence.
With the two-part “Scarlet Hunter”, the sounds become a bit less formed, resembling a long-form roar as occasional higher pitches of keening sound break through. It’s almost like a doubling down of the opening “Hallucination” trio. The two-part “Touch Returned” takes a softer, gentler approach, with warmer, more traditionally musical tones acting as a sort of peaceful sequel to the previous tracks. The three-part title track closes the album and takes its cues from everything that preceded it. There’s a soothing warmth that occasionally rises to the deafening heights of “Scarlet Hunter,” but the finality and maternal embrace of the music brings everything to a peaceful resolution.
Cooper, whose other musical endeavors include film scoring and Inventions (a project featuring Mark T. Smith of Explosions in the Sky), seems to thrive most effectively in a singular-minded project like Eluvium. It’s not to say that the music on Virga II and other Eluvium releases is simple-minded or lacking in complexity. Still, it contains a persistence and remarkable vision that brings immense warmth and joy to anyone experiencing it first or after repeated listening.