I should say from the off that Copia effectively sounds like nothing. Its genius is that it is a mirror, reflecting back on to you what is projected on to it. But, in and of itself, it is…well………..nothing. And it is, quite possibly, my favourite album ever.
When I first heard this record, in my dorm room at university in 2007, it took me so far in to my own head that I couldn’t tell if I was creating the next bars to the song or it was a pre-made record. It felt as if I was orchestrating music inside my own mind. That it was organic, human, and inseparable from me. (CUE DiS' REVIEW OF THIS RECORD.)
Matthew Robert Cooper wrote Copia under his moniker- ‘Eluvium’. It is twelve tracks long, around 60 minutes and instrumental. It is a stew of solemn strings, dulled horns and occasionally a gentle piano chord. There’s really very little else. And unlike Explosions in the Sky, there is no dominant emotion. It is faceless. It isn’t tiring and it isn’t sleep-inducing. It's just blank. Listening to this record might therefore induce some kind of mild temporary mental paralysis; a dissociative numbness. It is either a brief escape, a pointless vacuum or a moment of exquisite clarity that charges into your conscious mind when the album does its thing.
As epically reminiscent of purgatory as this record is, I have perhaps listened to it more than any other in the last five years. That such a title should be held by such an inoffensive record is not surprising. I don’t want to listen to something that gets intrusive over and over again, or predictable. But I want something that is the alternative music fan’s version of sorbet. I want something that is multi-faceted, pleasant and light. I have slotted this artist into so many playlists, sandwiched between songs of differing genres (or courses, to continue the meal analogy) that I don't know if it's a compliment or suggestion of epic blandness. Between Vanilla Ice, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Upsetters, Prince, Star Slinger, The Velvet Underground: whatever. I just listen to it loads. And rarely get bored, or feel it has nothing left to give.
Anyway, to me, this is the universal LP. I have listened to it perhaps once or twice a week every week for five years (and am now on a twelve step dependency programme) and it is very close to my heart. If there is one record I could recommend to everybody, it would, in fact, be this. Not Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours; not a biggest selling album of the last 10 years like a Lady Gaga record; not Susan Boyle. I would give you a record that you would pick something up no matter who you are or what your musical persuasion (maybe you don’t even have one) and I would tell you to just listen to it. Something that sounds universal. And, such a thing, that can be all things to all people, is, simultaneously (and confusingly), nothing, to nobody. This is a tantalising and devastating juxtaposition to me. Unity and loneliness are prisms for the very trials of life.
Ambient is easy to do, but it is hard to do this well. Copia is almost unnervingly synchronised with something human. It drifts with effortless calm; a natural, almost earthly serenity. The chords on an organ will change just as your mind takes a pause; the grandiose airiness of ‘Indoor Swimming at a Space Station’ reminds you of a feeling that you are, well……indoor swimming at a space station, and ‘Prelude for Time Feelers’ floats above you, with a blinding, almost religious gaze. Forever patient; forever willing; forever still.
It’s easy to listen through in one listen, and I recommend paying attention to the longer tracks like ‘Repose in Blue’, ‘Indoor Swimming…’ and ‘Ostinato’, that you can really get into. I would also say it’s best listened to with headphones.
This album is not like other contemporary ambient records, and Matthew Robert Cooper is not like other contemporary ambient artists. While others use either melody or atmosphere (or a combination of both) as a weapon to steer you to feel certain things or draw energy at certain points, Eluvium eradicates all self-awareness to achieve lightness and room for relaxation. It is like taking a deep, deep breath. In the hardest of times, in the complexity and chaos of life, Copia brings total stillness. Time almost stops, when I hear this record.