“Similes” – ‘Eluvium’
I said that I would eventually get around to writing this in my previous review of ‘Bullets In Madison’ and their exceptional masterpiece, “We Became Your Family When You Died”. It has taken me longer than usual to comfortably assimilate into a new life at University – fundamentally, a bigger, considerably more expensive form of Secondary-School minus the foolish. Now that I’ve been fully enveloped in an altogether, relatively similar system – which, mind you, I have so desperately tried not to become a part of – I find that all the time I once had on my hands is either spent recovering from the trips to and fro from city and home, or simply working; that is, writing fictionally elsewhere, other than the blog.
Hence the neglect…
I know that this album has been out for some while, perhaps a month, now pushing on two. But I said that I would do a review of it, and a review I shall do; I’ve made a few false-promises over the course of the blog – like stating we might attempt to review some ‘classic albums’, and that died in the ass completely – so!
Getting back to the grass-roots of my musical-spectrum, I find I’m helplessly drawn to “Similes” in the respect that it offers a different concept of ambience: its instrumentation is not simply limited to the good-ol’-fashioned electric, but the often-softer, soothing, generally-just-as-effective, acoustic. Last week I showed you a band that had somewhat amalgamated electric and acoustic elements into one successful whole, and I think I may have just stumbled upon another likely candidate for this same kind of element; not to say that ‘Bullets In Madison’ and ‘Eluvium‘ are similar, because ‘Bullets In Madison’ were playing with a far more intricate, complex set of evolutionary-standards [not Darwinian], and had some kick-ass lyrics that I’m literally in-awe-of.
So, without further distracting-introductory-digression, I give you:
I have the tendency to pick albums for reviews that I personally consider aren’t getting the focus that they possibly ought-to. In saying that, they’re not everybody’s taste. I don’t expect people to come rushing to these reviews, but some feedback of some kind [hopefully not entirely negative, preferably constructive-criticism] would be nice – comments are a fantastic way to do this. I know we offer a rating system at the bottom of the page, which is useful also, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s either saying you as the reader agreed with me as the reviewer, or nothing at all [because, on average, let’s say each review might see five hits a day – and that’s if it’s really lucky – but it may never at all receive comments or criticism, or ratings for that matter]. Now by mentioning all this, I am dreadfully anticipating a sudden onslaught of derogatory remarks which will completely destroy what little self-esteem I might have…
What I’m trying to say, and to put it bluntly now – coming full-circle – is that “Similes” isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Ambience isn’t everybody’s thing either, mind you, but with that said, I’m trying to get out of the indie/alternative/acoustic rut that we seem to dig ourselves into. My partner deals with a lot of out-there stuff as well, at the other end of the spectrum; so I guess I might be here to keep things balanced. “Similes”, if anyone knows what a simile may be, is basically a comparative metaphor: example:
“… You shone like the sun…
Shine on you cra-a-a-zy diamond!”
… ‘Pink Floyd’, if you haven’t already guessed, by the way.
At the top: “Similes” is a generally laid-back album; the mood is ostensibly calm, to some degree, there is little or no pace to drive each and every track. Songs kind of just, well, for use of a better euphemism, tumble-along.
“What in the world is a tumbling album?”
… You ask? Ooooh, new concept for discussion! It’s difficult to put into context – how can I phrase it? Songs aren’t entirely similar, but they share some likeness to one and other – so when one track ends and another begins, there remains this same general feeling about the next song that it shares with the one prior; and yet in some way, both are in themselves different. In this respect, “Similes” is like a falling-waltz, a simplistic 1-2-3-pattern, elaborately masked in the repetitive-motif of piano, or accompanying synth. At just over forty-minutes, “Similes” isn’t a particularly outdrawn album: giving you just enough time to fall helplessly in and out of love with it. But, pulling off eight tracks, it may be deceptively long to the new-listener.
Musically, I’ve already suggested that “Similes” is heavily ambience-orientated; if lyrics are your thing, however, you won’t be entirely disappointed. “Similes” does feature the vocals of the band’s sole protagonist, ‘Matthew Robert Cooper’, but they are in themselves shrouded in the wispy, fading echoes that embody each and every track. Words aren’t too distinctive, although the occasional chorus will enlighten you as to the track’s title, or perhaps a recurring word which you mightn’t have heard prior. So, on the whole, “Similes” isn’t just composed of instrumental ambience, but some very post-rock-esque vibes also. Dominant instrumentation is through synth, but there are also the acoustic-accompaniments of the frequenting piano, and what I can sometimes make out to be a guitar and even acoustic double-bass. These instruments then offset the sound-scape which the synth then develops and morphs accordingly, forming a basis, or initial layer as to which will grow this way or that.
Beginning track: “Leaves Eclipse The Light”, left me completely mesmerised. I’ve reiterated time and time again, that the opening track of an album has to successfully pin the listener to the chair; and I think this track does exactly that. “Leaves Eclipse The Light” has perhaps the cleanest vocalisation of lyrics for the entire album – and for that very same reason, the narrative that they produce is exquisitely portrayed in this mixture of somewhat-ethnic percussion, and the rambling, pitter-patter of keyboard. ‘Cooper’s’ voice is so harmonically strung that the seductive-tendencies of “Leaves Eclipse The Light” that everything within this song suddenly becomes hypnotic as you drift further and further within. The opening lyrics:
“… I’m losing your train of thought,
Watching my mind get caught…*”
And the chorus:
“… Cannot find the words to use the thoughts that I would write
Over analysing how the leaves eclipse the light…*”
Are just so wonderfully written – and I know they’re excerpts, but this track easily toys with your imagination. Like you’re running through the forest, all alone in the auburn glare of falling-autumn leaves, rays of dying light from sunset beckon in the distance; overly imaginative today, aren’t we? At 5:45, exceptionally generous.
Following, and “The Motion Makes Me Last” times-in at 5:29. Again, accompanying lyrics – but not as clearly defined. A particularly emphatic use of piano, highs-and-lows, that accentuate the rhythm – but the flitting keyboard/synth makes some aspects of this song harder to appreciate than others; personally, I find bliss in the chaos, but I myself am a rather eccentric-character, so you mightn’t appreciate this virtue as I do:
“… I’m a vessel between two places I’ve never been.” – “The Motion Makes Me Last”
“In Culmination”, track-three, sees the first purely-instrumental. But, skipping all the way down to “Nightmare 5”, we suddenly see a much darker, far more sinister side of “Similes” that has previously not featured in any other track; this can either be seen as a hiccup, or an ephemeral-transition [a kind of short-instrumental, though this does last for three-minutes or so, from light to dark], and is purely synth; very mysterious indeed…
I’m going to skip all the way to “Bending Dream”, because it’s one of those rare songs which somehow resembles its track-title. It is another ephemeral-transition, the shortest track that the album has to offer, at 2:45, and I believe, is a much more preferable finale than the eleven-minute out-drawn track featuring in its place, “Cease To Know”. But, I suppose some people may prefer “Cease To Know” because it does have lyrics, while “Bending Dream” is another one of those confounding synth instrumentals.
All in all, a general success – although, at times I find I’m a little frustrated with some aspects of the album; not too keen on the final track, which I think makes some albums, and I’m a little disappointed in the length, because just when you get into “Similes”, “Similes” is all over. Fans of ‘The XX‘ or ‘The Temper Trap‘ will know what I’m talking about, because they both have forty-minute albums that just don’t deliver enough . Scrum-diddily-umptious it might be, but still, never, never enough…
‘Eluvium’ delivers, but at what price are you willing to sell your soul for just that little bit more?
Reviewer’s Pick: “Leaves Eclipse The Light”
Stand-out Tracks: “Leaves Eclipse The Light”, “The Motion Makes Me Last”, “Bending Dream”
The Enantiomorphic God