Inventions – Maze of Woods

Inventions is the result of two talented musicians from very different genres leaving their respective comfort zones to create something compellingly unique. Matthew Cooper has been writing and recording under the moniker Eluvium for nigh on twelve years now. He is one of the most innovative artists on the ambient classical scene; Copia, released in 2007 is an essential album for fans of that genre. Mark T Smith is a guitarist with Texan doyens of the Post Rock movement, Explosions in the Sky.

Both have been so successful in their respective niches, that they are in danger of becoming slaves to the expectations of their fans, somewhat bound to the rigid, formulaic blueprint of their chosen genres. Inventions affords them the opportunity to push the envelope a little, and Maze of Woods, the second album recorded as Inventions, is a side project that may have delivered the best music either has produced in quite some time.

Of the two, the influence of Eluvium seems more pronounced; Maze of Woods definitely edges a little closer to Ambient/Classical than it does to Post Rock – the guitar fireworks that are such a feature of the music of Explosions in the Sky are not evident anywhere here. But there are other elements that neither musician has utilised on any of their previous recordings; the cut up vocal snippets and stuttering beat of opener ‘Escapers’ is very different to anything either has done before. ‘Springworlds’ features the kind of ambient textures synonymous with the music of Eluvium, with Smith adding some nice, understated guitar work into the wash. On ‘Wolfkids’ and ‘A Wind From All Directions’ Inventions show a hunger to experiment with different sounds and textures while the beautiful ‘Moanmusic’ is based around a simple piano motif set against a jarring sonic backdrop.

While Maze of Woods is unlikely to appeal to anyone who hasn’t already bought into the kind of instrumental music that requires a little patient listening, it does demonstrate the value of a collaboration like this. Inventions sounds less like a side project and more like a process of re-energisation for two of the leading lights of their respective scenes.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)