Two New Releases: Yann Tiersen + Eluvium

It makes no difference if a release is coming from a major, or a small independent label, in some cases they all save what they consider as their best releases for the winter holiday season. In the case of these new albums by Yann Tiersen and Matthew Cooper (aka Eluvium) their respective labels have certainly hit it at the right time. 

On the top surface, it might seem that artistically there isn’t much that connects the two. Of course, their style and concepts differ in a number of ways. But there are at least two things that do connect them. One is a very individual musical concept and the other is the fact that there is a prolific creative streak running through both artists that keeps them coming up with constant quality work.

Yann TiersenPortrait
Mute Records (CD/LP/DL)

Yann Tiersen had an out of the blue breakthrough at the turn of the century with the inclusion on the soundtrack for Amelie, itself not an expected film hit, the film’s creators sourced all of the music for the film from his existing discography. From there on, and since he came up with over 20 releases within his take on classical music whether it was Chopin and Satie or even a minimalist innovator like Michael Nyman. Of course, he always dared to throw in elements of everything else, from jazz to French accordion music. One of the constants of Tiersen’s work is even though he could have pushed into the lucrative new age field, he never succumbed to the mundane and kept his creative streak intact.

To re-cap his career so far he now comes up with Portrait, a double album retrospective. But, instead of going through the usual moves of just piling up tracks that everybody, or him personally liked. he sat down and re-recorded each of the selected compositions over again. On a number of tracks he was joined by a series of guests like John Grant, Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals, Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))), and Blonde Redhead among others.

Listening to the album, you get the impression at the same time, that you have and you haven’t heard these compositions before, which was probably exactly the effect Tiersen was looking for. In essence, you hear his recognizable artistic touch, now in a completely new light. And it works!

EluviumVirga I
Temporary Residence (LP/DL)

Matthew Cooper who mostly operates under the moniker of Eluvium (with only three releases under his birth-given name) is a prolific artist who likes to spread his ideas through different genres, although most would like to easily define him under the categorized ambient label. But Cooper has also tried (and succeeded) not to limit his creative juices just to one musical mode. He has done everything – from guitar drones to solo piano and church organ into fully electronic recordings.

Cooper (deservedly) seems to have a special status with his label, since Virga I Temporary Residence has initiated a new ambient series devoted to his work. As Cooper explains himself, he “had recently been playing around with various forms of generative music and long-format looping – as well as practicing patience interacting with musical systems and recordings – hesitantly dueting with them, trying to keep things minimal while also encouraging as much depth as possible. It was really just something fun to privately experiment with for personal gain.” As he explains further, these pieces he used them later on for “relaxing, stretching, and breathing.”

In many cases the problem with privately-oriented music is that it can sound too incidental and often not complete. But Cooper easily jumps that hurdle, making the three compositions on Virga I sound truly complete and intimate at the same time. Possibly, this is exactly how most of ambient music should sound like? Hmmm. As in Tiersen’s case, here we have another creative success.

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