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Eluvium – An Accidental Memory in Case of Death

Eluvium is what you want to hear when it’s overcast and torrential outside as well as in your mind. Eluvium consists of one man playing piano: Mr. Matthew Cooper. He manages to create a haunting, engaging, and short (which is perhaps why it’s so engaging) ambient record, and does it stunningly. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death is simple and elegantly melancholy music that conjures up gray images of lakes and filthy winter gutters. And according to the press release that came with the CD, the album was “recorded in less than two hours using only one microphone and no overdubs. It’s completely live, with no editing, mixing, mastering or post-production of any kind on the recording.”


Tracks like “Genius and Thieves” and “Perfect Neglect in a Field of Statues” feel as though they could be soundtrack pieces…more specifically, the scene in The Velveteen Rabbit when the rabbit realizes he isn’t real after all. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the word “eluvium” refers to sand that has been collected by the forces of wind. This album is indeed a creation of sound accumulations: airy, uncomplicated, neoclassical, and moving.

The question that eventually arises on a record that utilizes only one instrument is this: Can the listener stay interested and captivated? The answer is yes, and personally, as a member of the A.D.D. generation, I was glad that the album was on the short side, because my attention deficit brain (it’s cultural, not biological) has a need for dynamism. No vocals, guitar, bass, drums…Doc, I need a refill on my Ritalin prescription! The captivation lies in the fact that the record may be short, but its exquisite grief is just as apparent as its unadorned beauty. A half-hour of feeling like my cat just got ran over is hard, especially when I have no real reason to feel like I’m in the depths of a circumstance-related depression. At the same time I want to curl up into the fetal position with a warm blanket and imagine myself traveling through the green fields of Poland by train. The piano can be a powerful thing, my friends!

On the track “Nepenthe,” which literally refers to something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering, there is a sense of deep misery, where repeating chords become the driving stake of what must be Cooper’s approach at obliterating this sorrow of his. I can only hope that he finds the nepenthe he’s looking for. I have a suggestion: Brass Monkeys and Poker. With relatively dense layers of sound, our boy Cooper plays with a sense of rhythmic harmony that calms as well as saddens. On the last and title track, the record ends as beautifully as it begins: gently, and with nonchalance. Whatever it is that Cooper accidentally remembered was worth it, because the end result was the construction of some carefully crafted piano solos that boil down to this bottom line: Do you want to hear some really pretty piano music on a rainy day? Or any day, for that matter? Then buy this record as soon as humanly possible.


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