Written & Unsent is an album for people who enjoy solo piano, an aching sense of longing, sudden outpourings of emotion, and simple beauty. Outside of a brief thematic sound clip of someone scribbling a note—which we must assume was something heartfelt—there is nothing here but Mathew Roth and his keys and his thoughts. And here’s something worth noting: if you can bring me to the verge of tears with your first track, you’ve got me fairly well locked in. There is something in “An Outline of Rain” that goes straight to my core. While it’s in there dredging up whatever repressed memories it can, it’s also making me think of George Winston at his most emotive, and pointing toward Roth’s classical influences. He doesn’t let up as he moves into “This Delicate Entanglement.” The piece shifts from slow, gentle lines to an almost pounding round of heavy chords, a flare that rises toward anger, but burns itself out. And in that release, things settle back into quiet melody. I’m not sure if Roth meant for me to hear echoes of the X-Files theme in a flourish in the middle of “Step,” but in this spiraling storm of arpeggios, it jumps out at me. Prior to that, it catches my ear with a bouncing rhythm and impressively technical flourishes that keep a playful air. There’s almost a ragtime vibe to the song that juxtaposes nicely with the more somber undertone that comes with it. “Steeped As If Silence Were Water” is a romantic piece, bright and optimistic. It lives largely on the higher end of the keyboard and dances its way through its brief say.
There are only six pieces on Written & Unsent and it trickles past in under half an hour. But for me it lands with an emotional weight much greater than that. Roth’s playing is beautiful, full of life and pain and heart and skill. It has taken me a while to get around to reviewing Mr. Roth, and I know that there is a newer album from him waiting in my queue. Believe me—after listening to Written & Unsent, I will be looking into more of his work as soon as I can.
Available from Bandcamp.