Piano Works

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Ambient musician Matthew Cooper's work as Eluvium grew to become some of the more emotionally charged and cinematic of its type. As Cooper developed away from the long-format guitar drones of his earliest work, he'd include more nods to classical music as well as flirting with a mix of electronic and organic sounds, giving his ambient instrumentals more of a post-rock feel than that of more opaque soundscapes. Early in his discography, Cooper released 2004's An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death, an album made up entirely of minimal solo piano compositions. While piano has played a major role in many subsequent Eluvium recordings, Piano Works is the first of Cooper's output since then that's strictly solo piano. The 13 tracks here are spare, lonely, and muted, played with a sense of remove that suggests both nostalgia and the resurfacing of lost memories. "Transfiguration One" hangs with the kind of haunted melancholy that lies at the core of some of Eluvium's most glowing compositions, but instead of the often lush atmospheres Cooper is great at, we only get the sad skeleton of the music. Piano Works is said to be inspired by the solitary observations of children, and there's a sense of naïve wonder that the album returns to several times. "Masquerade," "Recital," and "Quiet Children" are all soft, cautious, and gently playful. Much of Piano Works sounds like distant memories or reimaginations of childhood feelings. The occasional somber pieces hold more a sense of confusion than anger or depression, in line with the perspective of someone still growing into their emotional capacities. The album drifts by with a bittersweet solitude, like a more innocent reading of Satie or a less distraught take on the piano ambience of Eluvium contemporary Goldmund, reflecting on the most dream-like aspects of childhood with these warm but distant piano pieces.

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