Eluvium: An Accidental Memory in Case of Death

I caught Eluvium at SXSW 2005 when I showed up early for mono’s set at the Temporary Residence showcase.

Sole member Matt Cooper alternately performed on electric guitar and piano. Although the long, fuzzy pieces he created with his pedal effects screamed "post-rock", it was his piano pieces that caught my attention.

They aren’t anything complex or technically challenging, and they’re really only a few steps above Enya in terms of harmonic adventurousness.

But I still like listening to them anyway.

An Accidental Memory in Case of Death is the Eluvium album to own if your piano bias is as strong as mine.

The album features nothing more than Cooper at the piano with the damper pedal down and some reverb to fill out the atmosphere.

Cooper’s pieces are contemplative and poignant, melodic but dark. There’s shades of French impressionism in his style, elevating his work above new age claptrap, without aiming too high for classicism.

The influence Claude Debussy is pronounced on "Nepethene", which is reminiscent to the French composer’s preludes, while "In a Sense" owes quite a bit to Erik Satie’s Gymnopidies.

Most of the pieces on An Accidental Memory in Case of Death aren’t flashy, but on the 7-minute "The Well-Meaning Professor", Cooper trots out some quick fingers and some seemingly rough technique.

Classical pianists aim for precision and cleanliness in tone, so it’s refreshing to hear piano music played with some dirty passion.

At 26 minutes, the album is probably shorter than it could be, but it’s a half-hour wonderfully spent. An Accidental Memory in Case of Death may not be Chopin or Beethoven, and Cooper is no Evgeny Kissen.

But it’s great to hear piano music with a classical influence (inadvertent or no) played by a performer without the conservatory indoctrination. Cooper’s simple playing packs a punch no less impressive than a virtuosic display.