Review Summary: Cooper recorded this EP in two hours, simply putting a microphone up to his piano and playing. It is bare and simplistic, but that has its profound qualities and also makes the album relaxing.
I’ve always enjoyed Matthew Cooper of Eluvium fame for his subtleties. From everything I’ve heard from him, he took extreme precision to his music and seemingly at the last second, added subtle swells and voices that no one can hear, but its obviously there because it added a density and complexity to his sound. An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death sounds like just that, an accident. It seems as if Cooper sat in a studio with a piano and laid down a few basic ideas for an upcoming album, and these takes leaked. Cooper apparently recorded it in two hours with one microphone on his piano. It is unlike anything he has ever done. It stands stripped bare of his beautiful nuances.
I’ve never heard any release quite as simple as An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death. Every song features one main piano melody that Cooper builds upon throughout the generally short tracks. With everything occurring on one instrument, Cooper now possesses the ability to do whatever he wants, putting in any ritardandos and any rubato that he wishes. His piano skill shows itself, as this is truly a live performance set in a studio. He meant for the EP’s bareness and simplicity. While Cooper never breaks out into any ferocious classical-styled piano runs, his chordal comping and perfect balance between left and right hand exude brilliance. Even in this live performance of one-off takes, Cooper makes no noticeable mistakes. There are some slight piano tuning issues, with some of the notes from before messing the tuning of the current chord.
Cooper has a typical method to his piano songwriting. In most songs, his left hand lines out the chord progression with a sort of walking arpeggio. This helps him keep time and holds the song together. However, he doesn’t limit himself to that, sometimes using the left hand for chords to invoke some sort of power into the song. His melodies are often relentless, never using much space and getting notes in at all times. Still, the melodies are simple and accessible, memorable. He uses dynamics well, about as well as he can with his delicate compositions and bareness. That bareness, what makes the EP, is also what hurts the EP. An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death fails only in its lacking variety and sameness throughout. Really, every song on this release flows together like one big, slow, piano concerto. The tempos hardly vary and Cooper plays with one, convicted emotion. On a timid, quiet release such as this, it adds to the style but it has more cons than pros. The Well-Meaning Professor
, the centerpiece, offers the only slight variety on the EP in style and feel. The song takes seven minutes to build up and expand, and by the song’s full expansion Cooper is showing his full piano chops. He plays frantically and slightly chaotically. The Well-Meaning Professor
is a great piano track and the only song on the EP that reached its true and full potential.
An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death shows that Cooper is not a one-trick pony. Sure, he can sit in a studio for months and pour every sound he can produce into each song and make the most intricate and dense song possible, but sometimes that’s not how he is inspired. Cooper finds the beauty in simplicity, even if he might enjoy it a bit too much on this release. He manages to create a relaxing and enjoyable EP, but it does nothing more for the listener than it will on the first listen. Its replay value is low. He could have at least taken the time to do some production work instead of just sitting down, playing, and releasing it. If he didn’t have the time then he shouldn’t have made the EP. Still, it has its moments and is certainly worth at least one listen for fans of Matthew Cooper and his work.
Recommended Track: The Well-Meaning Professor