An Accidental Memory In The Case Of Death
t eight of a hot morning, the cicada speaks his first piece. He says of the world: heat.
It begins, as all good things do, with an introduction. Matthew Cooper, the sole member of Eluvium, has chosen with his second album to avoid any awkwardness following up his previous work by sitting down at his piano, setting up a microphone and playing for little under two hours. He will shorten what happens to twenty-seven minutes. He begins with “An Accidental Memory”, a short elegiac piece, foreshadowing what will come and establishing the groundwork for the proceedings. This is what it is, Cooper says. Take it or leave it.
At eleven of the same day, still singing, he has not changed his note but has enlarged his theme. He says of the morning: love.
There’s two schools of thought here. One: there’s a certain beauty/getting back to nature inherent in the act of playing solo piano that can’t be equaled by any other instrument. It’s almost rockist, in a way. No other instrument exudes warmth and emotion as easily. Cooper takes this advantage and presses the issue for twenty-seven minutes, crafting short themes that are memorable enough to never outwear their welcome. Two: it’s fluff. All of it. There is nothing here that sticks or impresses upon the listener any sense of greater meaning. If the latter: why do I keep coming back?
In the sultry middle of the afternoon, when the sadness of love and of heat has shaken him, his symphonic soul goes into the great movement and he says: death.
Reference points in sound: Keith Jarrett’s The Koln Konzert, Erik Satie’s 3 Gymnopedics. Reference points in feel: Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Bed’s Spacebox, Saso’s Big Group Hug. It is the sound of being able to talk to a younger version of yourself and trying to decide what to say. It’s the sound of being told by an older version of yourself what has happened to your life and why it isn’t like you thought it might be. It is the sound of looking at the postcard of Coney Island the day after your father dies.
But the thing isn’t over. After supper he weaves heat, love, death into a final stanza, subtler and less brassy than the others. He has one last monosyllable at his command. Life, he says, reminiscing. Life.
It ends, as all good things do, with a restatement of thesis and form. “An Accidental Memory In The Case Of Death” is the extended form of the opener and it, like all other pieces on this record, wears its heart on its sleeve. It just depends on whether you're doing so, as well. Well…are you?
Quotes taken from E.B. White’s Life, The New Yorker. September 1, 1945.