Saturday, July 06, 2013

Eluvium, "Nightmare Ending"

There are two kinds of great albums -- the ones where you realize how great they are after one or two weeks and/or three or four listens, and the ones where you realize how great they are about ten minutes into the first listen.  

As you might have guessed, the albums in the first category are merely great albums, but the ones in the second category are GREAT and tend to be listened to obsessively.  

Eluvium's newest album, "Nightmare Ending", might be his finest album yet.  More so than his previous work, the focus is on looping and repetition.  The opener "Don't Get Any Closer" instantly envelopes you with the sound of church organs whirring to life and heaps upon heaps of echo-processed piano.  The worst thing about it is its criminally short nine minutes run time.  But it's on the next track, "Warm", where Eluvium takes the album to the next level.  On most albums, even his own, this would have been a two minute drone interlude before moving on to the next, more serious opus.  But here, the track loops on and on, and a semi-improvised solo sustains what could have been a throwaway track for seven more glorious minutes.  After fifteen minutes, "Nightmare Ending" is already an emotionally draining, enrapturing listen.

It also has its share of piano interlude pieces that are par for the course on Eluvium albums, but even these are unpredictable.  "Chime" starts out as a throwback to "Happy Songs For Happy People" era Mogwai before building into a thundering hiss of distortion and background noise -- a sound that many Mogwai fans have been waiting on for about a decade.  

"Unknown Variation" is a condensed version of what Eluvium attempted on "Static Nocturne".  Starting out with what could be a heavily processed meditation tape entitled "sounds of the crashing waves on the beach" or something to that effect, it gradually turns from smiley ambient bliss into a frightening semi-symphonic crush of vacuum cleaner noise.  

People who couldn't get into Eluvium's vocals-heavy album "Similes" will be happy to know that vocals are confined only to the closing track, "Happiness".  It's the closest Eluvium has ever come to having a truly romantic side, and he's brought in Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan to spin a simple and touching tale of walking home and pulling the blankets tight.  It's as if Eluvium made it his mission to prove he could have been a worthy collaborator on YLT's "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out", thirteen years after the fact.  Again, this could have been a throwaway track added to the album to court a bit of indie cred, instead it puts nearly everything on "Similes" to shame.  "Similes" is excellent, but Eluvium is on the roll of a lifetime with this album.  Almost everything he touches turns out better than he ever managed it before.  

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