After a fascinating spell working with Explosions in the Sky’s Mark Smith on Inventions, Matthew Cooper returns to his beloved Eluvium with False Readings On. The record features many hallmarks of Cooper’s back catalogue: the compositions are meditative, simple but expansive and, frequently, over all-too-soon. That’s even when they clock in at nearly 20 minutes, such as on this recording’s final cut, “Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse.”

This is music that stirs the imagination as deeply as it stirs emotion. It provides us with the sense that, every now and again, time itself has stopped, that our lives need not be overtaken by haste, that we can enjoy everything a little more if only we can pause and reflect. Each of Cooper’s strange, evocative soundscapes unfolds with a gentle precision most closely associated with nature itself. It is a patient awakening that springs forth new life.

The opening track “Strangeworks” for instance moves glacially, patiently rising to awareness over the course of nearly one full minute. It’s a faint, nebulous apparition of sound that bursts into full aural flesh near the very close of its 4:25 running time. At times reminiscent of Tim Hecker’s recent spiritually-minded work on Love Streams, “Strangeworks” and the other pieces here remind us of the beauty in stillness.

“Fugue State” is a minimalistic dream that summons memories of John Adams’ Shaker Loops. Solemn and beautiful it serves as an early high point on the record but is decidedly not the only one. “Regenerative Being” begins with shoves of noise, elements that ask us to imagine the warping of sound itself. That’s before a gorgeous piano figure eases its way into being and an operatic voice floats above the sound of strings vibrating somewhere in the middle ground. “Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse” relies on a similar compositional pattern but it soars in ways “Regenerative Being” does not. Its simplicity stirs in the listener a towering reverence that gives way to the reflections on beauty as the song’s ashes scatter during a long and luxurious fade into the eternal.

There are moments of deep disquiet and foreboding as well. “Rorschach Pavan,” for example is an often eerie passage through life’s darker corners. But light comes shimmering through with a piercing sense of uplift that transports us out of the darkness and to the light-bathed paths Cooper seems to tread upon most comfortably.

Meanwhile, “Individuation” comes off as the closest thing to a conventional song here. Its gentle piano maneuvers and quiet focus marry the stirring nature of church music with the sometimes sad, sometimes unresolved nature of the blues. It’s during this piece and this piece only that one can easily imagine a vocalist—someone on the level of Peter Gabriel perhaps—adding an understated but deeply devastating vocal line. Still, it misses nothing in its current state.

“Washer Logistics,” on the other hand, is the record’s noisy, unruly son, arguably Cooper’s take on drone metal, replete with throbbing synth lines that sound like guitars fed through deeply distorted amps. It has the most attitude among the 11 compositions here and is a welcome respite from the softer, more reflective passages that form the body of the record.

In the end, Cooper has given us a generous helping of music that soothes and surprises and occasionally leaps from our speakers. What it does mostly, though, is remind us that Cooper is a master composer capable of wide emotional reach—the kind that keeps listeners deeply in tune with the music. A truly masterful and memorable work.

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