The two big departures that initially made me question whether this album was going to be a trainwreck (or worse, boringly conventional) are that Similes employs vocals and percussion. But it employs those elements sparingly, it turns out; the softly pattering beats that underpin some of the songs aren't exactly the thunderous stomp you might associate with drums (or drum machines), and honestly I'm not sure you'd notice it if you weren't looking for differences. Cooper's muted Ian Curtis-on-Xanax singing is more immediately noticeable, muttering gently through five of these eight tracks, but the most surprising thing about them is that they seem so natural. Yes, part of the beauty of an album like Talk Amongst the Trees was how it told so rich a story without ever actually saying anything, but a song like "The Motion Makes Me Last" carries much of the same tone and weight as anything else made under the Eluvium name. It turns out that Cooper sings exactly like you'd expect someone who makes this kind of music to, which means he has about as much business singing as, say, Brian Eno—and like Eno, he knows exactly how to deploy his limited vocal gifts for full effect.
Musically, Similes backs away a bit from the full strings-and-brass majesty of Copia, but from the subtly roiling piano of "In Culmination" to the long dying fall of "Cease to Know" Cooper has retained his knack for capturing moments of beauty. Any doubts that adding vocals and choruses doesn't suit Eluvium's music ought to be laid to rest by the graceful sweep of the opening "Leaves Eclipse the Light," where Cooper creates a sort of crescendo without ever raising his voice. As always, the beauty of Eluvium's music lies in the way it evokes brief, perfect moments in time, quiet contemplation, a kind of gratefully devastated wonder. Similes adds new shades to Cooper's palette, but it isn't a big change from his earlier work; given the quality of that work, and of this album, that counts as a triumph.