Inventions is the musical collaboration of Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper and Explosions in The Sky’s Mark Smith. On the surface their 2014 self-titled debut as Inventions was a nice mix of Eluvium’s glitchy and atmospheric electronics and Explosion’s wide-eyed and cavernous musical landscape. While it was a solid effort, it didn’t seem to beg for repeated listens. Less than a year after that debut, Inventions returns with the stunning Maze Of Woods. Cooper and Smith no longer sound like to buddies making glitchy, expansive bedroom music. They have found a way to expand each other’s musical palates and create something completely new.
“Escapers” announces itself immediately with a pronounced beat, a ghostly vocal, and alien glitches and swaths of noise as guitar comes in and out in bursts of reverb. It’s a messy, ethereal, and very promising beginning. “Springworlds” has a bubbling rhythm just under the surface as a guitar plays in the distance. It’s the perfect mix of Cooper’s electronic prowess and Smith’s ability to create intense emotional connection with ringing, echoed guitar parts.
Maze Of Woods brings to mind Boards of Canada in its subtle emotional pulls and the nostalgic longing in the sparse use of human elements(ghostly vocals and spoken word moments). “Peregrine”, for example, is very reminiscent of Music Has The Right To Children in its desolate glitches, while the piano sounds like a lost Kid A track. “Slow Breathing Circuit” sounds like it’s name. It has the feel of something inorganic becoming organic. It sounds like the inside of an ancient clock slowing coming back to life. It’s eerie, haunting, and quite beautiful. “Wolfkids” has elements of Oneohtrix Point Never in it’s synth layers before the beat comes in and gives the song a dance edge. “Moanmusic” is this mix of dense electronic haze while acoustic piano fights for breath amidst the shots of electronic swirl. “Feeling The Sun Thru The Earth At Night” is as epic as the title suggests. It pulls the grandiosity of an Explosions in The Sky track into this pool of psychedelic haze and dream-like binary swirl.
There’s a dreamy feel to this album. Piano, guitar, whispered vocals, and ambient textures float in and out of the mix while occasionally prominent beats come in to give you the urge to move. But there isn’t just one main agenda here on Maze Of Woods. Cooper and Smith are each equal in creating the sometimes melancholy and sometimes uplifting moods. There are definite echoes of artists like Baths, Oneohtrix Point Never, Boards of Canada, and of course each guy’s other gigs. But comparisons aside, Inventions has become something completely its own on this record. Something bigger than just a collaboration.
Inventions’ Maze Of Woods is still two friends, as well as labelmates, making music together and complimenting each others strengths in the process. But it’s also a record that moves beyond whatever musical baggage Matthew Cooper and Mark Smith may have brought last time around. This is a record that stands on its own as something unique and wonderful. Maze Of Woods has created a world where you can easily get lost in its 40 minute time span and not mind the journey you take.
8.4 out of 10