“On their first album together since Maze of Woods (2015), Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) further their creative curiosities as Inventions. Beginning with a trace of uncontrollable laughter that shifts into the driving atmosphere and unfolding elation of opening track “Hint and Omens,” Continuous Portrait is an album of strange hypnosis, punctuated by songs that venture quite far from the respective oeuvres of Cooper and Smith. The spry, playful layers of “Calico” bounce against a steady thrum of rhythms and samples from everyday noises, while the dancing lightness of “Outlook for the Future” is met with a storm of emotional resonance. Both tracks emerge as distinctively different directions for Inventions, and it is that very sense of exploration, pleasure, and ceremonial melancholia which informs the entire album from front to back.”
I tend to listen to / read / watch things that are within a certain framework. This is principally because these things are within my ‘comfort zone’. I tend to find that when I step out of this zone, I know straight away that I am straying. With a release such as this it leads me slightly out, but unlike the obvious feeling of being out of my depth, it provides this gentle nudge to be more open to something different. Sure, the pairing of an Ambient artist like Matthew Cooper (aka Temporary Residence mainstay Eluvium) and Mark T Smith (Explosions In The Sky) have respective long established styles, the music on this their third full-length and fourth overall release, is not the obvious sound of this pairing. The album sounds like a diverse collection of various styles which are both explored throughout the album on individual tracks and via a combination of pieces.
The music could best described under the “electronic” umbrella, which admittedly is not the most descriptive of classifications, but it does highlight the variance of the music while still grouping it together and also highlights the main choice of instrumentation. Pieces like the title track and “Saw You In A Movie” are of the ambient persuasion while pieces such as “The Warmer The Welcome” mix in what sounds like sampled vocals and more electronic moments. Then there is the retro synth fest that is the opening track “Hints and Omens” and the eclectic “Calico” which pushes and pulls from so many different stylistic directions and influences. While Explosions In The Sky are known for longer, epic pieces, the relative normal length of the tracks definitely don’t hinder their explorations in sound.
Mood wise the pieces are as equally playful as they are serious as seen in the track “A Time In My Life”. On this piece the music moves from a bubbling synth underground with vocals and occasional guitar through to a near Modern Classical section before passing through an avant garde string driven part that feels as if the piece is about to fall apart. It would be impossible to point to a specific track and highlight it as representative of the album such is it’s diversity. This nature could be as much of the album’s attraction to some listeners, while others may struggle. I have listened through this album many times and I am still at a loss as to best describe it. Just when I get a handle on it, I am thrown by the next style or track. “Continuous Portrait” is the type of release for the adventurous listener who is not resigned to listening to one style or feel. In some ways it may be the most contemporary release I have heard in a while.
“Continuous Portrait” is currently available Digitally with the physical release – Bronze LP, Black LP and Cd available June 10 via Temporary Residence Limited.