Review of A Static Place [12k1064]

Vital Weekly (NL)

A new work of Stephan Mathieu is always a delight. If a pile of stuff arrives on one day, and there is a Stephan Mathieu among the lot, you can be sure I will play that one first. For the decade or so that I know his music (and the lovely man himself), I have been rarely, if at all, been disappointed. His work deals with projects, like using radio as a source of music, virginals and now its time to have a look at wax cillinders from the late 1920s and early 1930s, when ‘historically informed performances of music from the late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque era were etched into 78rpm records. Mathieu plays these back on an ancient gramophone and picks up the music from his space and treats it with ‘spectral analysis and convolution processes’, whatever that means exactly. It something you can think about when you listen to these five long pieces. This could be, something I was thinking about then, be a more likely release on Line than 12K. If you are familiar with his music, then you probably know what to expect: easily the best you can have in the world of drone/ambient music. There isn’t a single moment when you think this is music made with the aid of a computer. More like a bunch of analogue synthesizers, recorded to cassette (the hiss in the opening piece ‘Schwarzchild Radius’!) and in the process of transfer nothing was done to remove the hiss and static energy of low grade recording means, and that’s surely the intention of Mathieu when working with wax cillinders. At first it seems if the music is too gentle, a big cliche of ambient music, but as the album progresses Mathieu adds a lot of depth to it and it works on many levels. The music is gentle, not mistake can be made there, but it can not be lumped in with the new age crowd, although the opening may seem to hint at that. Its more like Eno’s first ambient record – to be noticed, to fill an ambience. Excellent.

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