Eluvium is back with an extremely intriguing musical experiment that is a must-listen for ambient music fans.
Album Title: Shuffle Drones
Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Matthew Cooper has been recording under the Eluvium moniker for the better part of 15 years now and has been pretty high up the tree of ambient music producers in that time. There aren’t many musicians in the minimalist piano and experimental ambient music game that have tapped into such a relaxing state of subconscious euphoric bliss as Eluvium has through Cooper’s compositions over the years. There’s a seamless continuity to Eluvium’s repertoire as each record is highly comparable, rarely ever having vocals and instead crafting their cloud-like meditative feel through waves and washes of gentle but engrossing keyboard sounds, or delicate but mournful piano ballads. It is music that conspires to wipe away the mental cobwebs in the listener’s mind, pushing them out onto a metaphorical river to escape the bustle of regular life and be at internal peace.
Shuffle Drones doesn’t deviate from the classic Eluvium formula in that sense but offers up a whole new ideology and listener experience that Cooper hasn’t attempted before. It is a record designed to address modern music consumption but experiment with album form, structure and content. The mission statement of the record is spelled out literally with the names of the tracks (23 of them), which when put together read as ‘simply put the suggested manner of listening to this work is to isolate the collection and to randomize the play pattern on infinite repeat – thus creating a shuffling drone orchestration – the intent is to create a body of work specifically designed for and in disruption of modern listening habits and to suggest something peaceful complex unique, and ever-changing thank you’. Well, he certainly achieves the intent of this record so 10/10 for accomplishing what he set out to do.
This may seem like a gimmick. Each of the tracks is 32 seconds long except for two slightly longer tracks. Each piece of music is almost exactly the same except for a few variations. The beginning and end each track is the exact same tone and note so each track leads off seamlessly into the next, meaning you can (and should) listen to the album in any order. As the song titles suggest, this caters for the nature of modern music consumption (particularly on Spotify) perfectly. Never have I found Spotify ad breaks more disruptive to my experience of an album!
Indeed you could listen to this album to infinity. What’s remarkable is that each 30 second or so piece of music manages to create different feelings and emotions in their short running time, which is an amazing testament to the immutable power of ambient music (and music in general) to provoke an emotional response in the listener. It is also an examination of how music itself works, as Cooper pairs the same note and tone on each track with different variations, tones, notes, and instruments. With each combination there is a different atmosphere assigned whether it be blissful, joyous, sombre, melancholy, reflective, hopeful etc. etc.
Shuffle Drones will be a footnote of albums produced this year unfortunately and is ultimately just a bit of an experimental project, which is a shame because the project works so well with what it set out to achieve and I think a lot of people could derive a lot of enjoyment (or other things) out of their experience with this record. Eluvium has been remarkably consistent throughout their career and this is an album which both extends this win rate and adds something completely new to the catalogue.