I like to eat peanuts. My fiancée says I eat too many of them. “Too much of a good thing is never healthy for you,” she often reminds me as I’m picking through bag after bag. So, I try to stop. But they’re so goddamn good, I always think, and eventually I get sick after plowing through Trader Joe’s finest medleys. What does this have to do with Inventions? Well, the idea of cross-pollinating the sounds of Matthew Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) feels like it could warrant the same argument: too much of a good thing. Emotionally speaking, the project skirts between two of the finest ambient composers in today’s music.
Eluvium’s loop-friendly Talk Amongst the Trees (2005) and brass-branded Copia (2007) remain works of art. They’re aural moments captured on tape inclined to coddle the mind, body, and soul in ways that music is supposed to do at its most basic form. The same can be said of Explosions in the Sky, specifically their earlier works like Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001), and The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003) — true emotional vessels that don’t ask to be absorbed but instead lived in. So, when combining the two, it was apt to feel both hype and hesitation.
Either feeling is unnecessary. Similar to the artist’s respective outputs, Inventions is another mood-friendly collection of ambient works that never impresses too hard upon your feelings. Instead, it’s a hallmark to Cooper and Smith’s strengths — the loops and guitar, respectively — and a further extension to areas they might acknowledge with future Eluvium or Explosions in the Sky releases. The very funereal “Flood Poems” riffs between old tricks and new chants, the industrial “Entity” churns around like a steam room with a conscious, and the post-rock clusterfuck of “Sun Locations / Sun Coda” sounds like a sci-fi score on the operating table.
On the whole, though, there’s less of a message with Inventions than any of their respective efforts. That’s okay; it’s better to consider this an experiment anyhow. Especially since not all of it works: the theatrical vocals on bottom track “Recipient” are too on-the-nose, while the middling flare effect that turns each track’s mid-section into a Kevin Shields production becomes predictable by closer “Psychic Automation”. Still, it’s eight tracks worth a stroll or two and a respectable presentation on why Cooper and Smith will always have a career in music, whether it’s stabbing our emotions or turning life into cinema. I’m just not sure I’ll crave it much.
Essential Tracks: “Flood Poems”, “Entity”