If a picture tells a thousand words then a song paints a thousand pictures, and on ‘Maze of Woods’ Inventions are streaming at 1080p. This is the second album from the collaboration between Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper and Mark T Smith of Explosions in the Sky, and as you would expect it is an exquisitely crafted and perfectly poised slice of escapism.
It’s not music you can dance to, but if you voiced that opinion to the duo they would just look at you with a hint of pity and tell you “of course not”. The concern here is to take the familiar and transform it into something unfamiliar; the path down which the band leads the listener is lined with oak trees with gravel underfoot, but crosses the surface of Ganymede with the Great Red Spot of Jupiter burning over the horizon.
In this spirit, evocative vocal samples bookend the album. Moving from the frank announcement that “I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do” on opening track ‘Escapers’ to the distant choir of tender closing track ‘Feeling the Sun Through the Earth at Night’, there is a sense of progression through the record even in the human voice.
Immersive soundscapes sculpted with an emphasis on ambiance can often lose emotional contact behind walls of sonic data, but the lines between digital and analogue are almost indistinguishable on ‘Maze of Woods’, testament to the skill of its composers. Warm waves on ‘Springworlds’ contrast with tortured pads on ‘A Wind From All Directions’ and the record is underpinned by guttering bass tones, but none of these sounds sit at odds with the record’s acoustic elements, namely the acoustic guitar of ‘Slow Breathing Circuit’ and the piano on ‘Peregrine’.
Even the groundswells of raw noise which sweep across the stereo field on ‘Moanmusic’ retain an organic sheen, taking the listener to the edge of their sonic map, but in all honesty any map you have will be useless on this record. If you need to know exactly where the music will take you before you set off then this really isn’t the album for you, but if you’re willing to close your eyes and place yourself in the hands of Inventions you will see with your ears while feeling with your heart.
Words - Joe Ponting
Maze Of Woods is released on March 16th - Buy