Martin Eden is a new project from the man behind Eluvium, a band that has popped up several times in the last few years, all for positive reasons. The guy pulling the strings behind these projects is called Matthew Cooper. His new moniker – Martin Eden – which is presumably named after the 1909 novel of the same name by American author Jack London, about a young struggling writer, is an exciting and heart-wrenching new take on ambience by Cooper.
It is by far the most electronic project he has worked on thus far, and with a new album from Eluvium in the pipeline for next year, it would seem this LP is a long, windy walk down a dark malingering path for him, which is a path he may have not been able to take under his previous alias.
Ambience is something that has always surrounded Cooper but he takes a new twist on it this time: he released a 7″ sampler for this LP at the end of the summer (also on Lefse Records, based out of Sacramento) and on this release, he points very clearly to what is to come on the full-length LP.
The A-side of that 7″ “Worker” achieves everything that I believe Cooper to have set out to do with this LP – a slow-burning ambient juggernaut, warm but haunting, dark but enlightening. Even though Cooper opted to not put “Worker” on the LP release, a lot of the tracks on the LP follow this same formula and take you to the same dark yet blissful places.
On “Short Cut”, he draws on early electronica such as Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, yet there is still a relatively modern layering present. However, on other tracks, it definitely seems that these are ideas that are not new to him; in some cases, they appear to be ideas which he has nurtured over time, which only now have had a chance to become airborne.
Born in Tennessee, raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and relocated to Portland, Oregon a few years ago, Cooper most definitely appears to be offloading something that is important to him as the album oozes heartfelt modern day lullabies, albeit in a clouded, industrial fashion. Dedicate Function as a whole from start to finish takes you on a journey through lesser spotted electronica with nods to all the great innovators in the business. What he retains from Eluvium is the ambient and shoegaze elements, but the structure of the songs is very much so a different approach, far more heavily based on electronica as opposed to more traditional, instrumentally based music. This in turn allows him more space to breathe, and removes any shackles he may have had under previous projects.
The first time Eluvium came across these ears was from a Four Tet remix, with which he finished his BBC Radio1 Essential mix a few years back; a powerful, piano-driven tearjerker. Dedicate Function is not a million miles from this remix, but it does go way deeper into the trenches, so to speak.
This is an album best listened to from start to finish, in order to fully appreciate the picture Cooper is trying to paint. What is certain is that this blissful piece of music was born out of purity as it feels like the work of a man possessed, possessed by the idea of something beautiful.