A new Eluvium LP is always an event in my book but Shuffle Drone is an odd one: An off-year release after 2016 LP False Readings On and a very conceptual album: it’s made of 23 30-seconds tracks, meant to be played infinitely shuffled in a continuous unending flow (Except you pressing stop, of course :P). Consequently, every track on the album is a small piece of track, a rapid variation that starts and finishes on an identical droning sound.
Shuffle Drones with its quirky album track name, is intended as a reflexion about the way music is often played in the digital age with infinite shuffling playlist on streaming service; and at first, It seems like it would be very hard to deliver on this idea but Matthew Cooper way of doing music is the perfect fit for this kind of technical limitation. In his earlier work, he made a habit of creating increasingly complex soundscapes by stacking layer upon layer of droning sound and muffled orchestral melodies. (A impressive process that I’ve have seen him reproduce flawlessly live in concert). Shuffle drone is just a riff on that formula: stacks, and then unstacks complex layer of music and doing it again, and again… It’s very much poetry in its ways of creating art inside strict constraints.
And it works ! Genuinely. On my first listen, I’ve pushed the shuffle button and clicked play and two and a half hours later I was still listening to the album not noticing a great deal of repetition and not knowing how many times any given track was played. It’s a slow-moving piece of droning ambient and it breaths at a very fixed pace with a very present background sound but so many unique variations in the mood and tone emerged from the different pairing of each track. the way you brain can’t stop interpreting them based on the one before making every variation a different story. It’s music, emotion and very subtle direction in a simple design. Everything i love :)
In the end, concept album or not, Shuffle Drones is a great release by Eluvium. And even more so if you fell of the Eluvium wagon in the recent year, it sounds like one of his early, simple, great albums like Copia. That’s very impressive.
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