Review of A Static Place [12k1064]

Touching Extremes (IT)

In Soft Machine’s <i>Bundles</i> the final piece is called “The Floating World”. Yet if there’s an artist who better than anyone else could bring that suggestion to completion, it must be Stephan Mathieu. His music gives indeed the idea of floating: almost no rhythmic subdivision, blurred clusters and textures – created by superimposing and intersecting different sonic planes – mostly belonging to the “suspended” variety. We seem to eternally glide between states, uncertain if what we’re hearing is an actual sound or a figment of our imagination. The albums reviewed here are complementary, needing to be listened together to fully acknowledge the designer’s vision. Both lasting exactly one hour, they constitute a reminder of human defencelessness in conjunction with the incomparable ecstasy caused by the skilled processing of particular frequencies

A passionate collector of 78 rpm records, Mathieu uses those objects from ancient pasts as the source for redesigning the acoustic space surrounding a listener. He never indicates the exact details of the original recordings, subjecting them to a spectral expansion through an entropic setup including convolution processes. There might be early jazz or a chamber ensemble as primary constituents. It doesn’t matter. What the composer does is extrapolating the essence of that past and let it drift: evanescent radiance, moving recollections, deluded hopes. Like reminding an adolescent on vacation that school will start again shortly, sea and bicycle rides soon to become a memory to cuddle, the warm feelings towards “that” person unreturned.

Not interested in knowing more, one goes astray in the magnificent sensation of harmless insecurity brought forth by these morphing nimbuses. In <i>A Static Place</i> the settings change a bit: a modicum of harmonic development, barely discernible female voices even appearing in the opening “Schwarzschild Radius”. Traits that defy an “installation soundtrack” categorization. This substance intoxicates in depth then vanishes, to reappear in other ephemeral morphologies. It is not ambient, either: calling these mementos of our transiency as such would be offensive. However, the mesmerizing stability of the aptly titled <i>Remain</i> is the direct consequence of a precise choice. In fact, this is the reworking of pre-existent materials, taken from Janek Schaefer’s <i>Extended Play</i>. Mathieu lets a droning stillness take wing to higher spheres as we linger in awe, children for a second time, without understanding what the link between now and then really is. Suspended. Floating. Still thankful for not having been given a rationalization of what all of this means.

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