LINE_047 | CD | Edition of 500 (sold out/out of print) | February 2011
Another beautiful sweeping dense work by German artist Stephan Mathieu. Remain, a new 60 minute composition utilizes original material from Janek Schaefer’s Extended Play, reprocessed by Stephan Mathieu between September 2008 and October 2010 using an entropic setup, spectral analysis and convolution processes. A companion piece to A Static Place on 12k.
Still Image: Stephan Mathieu
Published by TouchMusic (MCPS)
Stephan Mathieu (b. 1967) is a self taught composer and performer of his own music, working in the fields of electroacoustics and abstract digitala. His sound is largely based on early instruments, environmental sound and obsolete media, which are recorded and transformed by means of experimental microphony, re-editing techniques and software processes involving spectral analysis and convolution; it has been compared to the landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, the work of Colorfield artists Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Ellsworth Kelly.
During the last decade Stephan’s music has been released on 28 CDs and vinyl records, both solo and in collaboration with Akira Rabelais, Douglas Benford, Ekkehard Ehlers, Janek Schaefer, John Hudak and Taylor Deupree on electronic music labels worldwide.
Since 1992 he performed his music live in solo shows and on festivals all over Europe, Scandinavia, North and South America and created various audio installations for galleries and museums, a glass-blowing factory, a 17th century garden, Berlin Mitte, a 19th century steel plant, parks, an arrangement of 30 Peugeots, a late antique throne hall and many other unique sites.
“I’m a collector of 78rpm records from the 1910s and 20s, the era of acoustic and early electronic audio recording. I love the way they transport sound.”
... Not without good reason, Stephan Mathieu is practically revered by many electro-acoustic advocates. His incredibly subtle, microscopic particle arrangements are heard uninterrupted in this piece which unfolds with the organic, life-affirming nature of a gradual sunrise over a vast desert plain, picking out glints of light from individual grains of sand while suffusing his infinite scapes with caramelized drones and mirage-like spectral strings. This is sublime music crafted for meditative consumption. Highly recommended.
This is a sister release to the recent CD on 12K which came and went in no time though a repress is happening soon. Not one to cut and paste from press releases but this is a reasonably informative sentence so here you go 'Remain, a new 60 minute composition utilizes original material from Janek Schaefer’s Extended Play, reprocessed by Stephan Mathieu between September 2008 and October 2010 using an entropic setup, spectral analysis and convolution processes. A companion piece to A Static Place on 12k.' Entropic setup?? Convolution processes?? I have no idea.... I know what I like though and listening to this is a total pleasure. It's one of the warmest dense sounding drone records I've heard in ages. I just stopped typing and tranced out for a few minutes while I was wrapped up in some lovely textured drones punctuated by some small crackles and whizzes. I wanted to get the word celestial in there but it didn't quite fit so I thought I'd slip it in to it's own sentence. I so wish I had time to listen to all of this cos it sounds awesome. I'm gonna have to check out some of his other music now. Proper chill out music!
(Norman Records, UK)
Remain, consisting of a single hour long track based upon Janek Schaefer's Extended Play, carries much of the same sensibilities of A Static Place, but instead projects it out into a long, sprawling work that has a slower, more deliberate pacing. Opening from quiet, open space, there are subtle vinyl clicks and pops that appear throughout, never being the focus but always adding to the album a slight sense of rhythm.
Early on there is a more pronounced leaning on the lower frequency spectrum, allowing bassy swells to appear abruptly, when they weren't as notable on A Static Place. There is an undercurrent of melody throughout the entire hour, but it doesn’t seem to be the focus; instead there is more texture and subtlety to be heard. There’s definitely "drone" elements, but I’m hesitant to say that since it has become almost a pejorative term, but here it applies in the most literal sense.
There is the same sense of comfort and warmth that carries over to here as well, with sustained notes that convey a familiar nostalgia that is universal. Throughout its full hour duration, the piece never seems to have a moment of filler, but slowly flows like a complex river of sound. It is haunting, with moments of sadness, darkness and triumph.
Both Remain and A Static Place share some definite qualities with one another, but each are their own album and focus on different compositional strategies by Mathieu. Remain is a slow building work, constantly evolving with a fluid sound to it, while A Static Place is more immediate, mostly due to the shorter pieces included. Both are gorgeous, evolving works of delicate melody and subtle texture, however, and I don't think I could pick a favorite between the two.
After 10 years of being a subsidiary of Taylor Deupree’s 12k label, Richard Chartier has taken the LINE imprint and has begun issuing releases under his own banner as well as re-issuing music that has been long out-of-print and virtually impossible to obtain as high quality Apple lossless files.
The first official release to see the light of day on the new LINE label is Stephan Mathieu Remain (LINE_047). It’s 60 minutes of beautiful, electroacoustic, droning sound that utilizes Janek Schaefer’s Extended Play (LINE_036) material, albeit in a reprocessed format that is absolutely stunning and mesmerizing.
I liken Remain to an aural equivalent of Barnett Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-51, which I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City a few years ago. It is a warm, flowing release that wraps around you like water, and in which, you swim in the sound.
One thing I’d like to add about LINE is that when I received this package in the mail, included in it were two gorgeous postcards and a hand-written ‘thank you’ note from Richard Chartier himself. It’s little things like this that keep music aficionados like me loyal to the very end.
Here (Mathieu) uses the same material that was responsible for the release Extended Play by Janek Schaefer. Perhaps not just because Mathieu likes to do remixes, but because of the sound sources used for that piece: old Polish music, old vinyl and old turntables, which happen to be strong interests in the recent work for Mathieu. And no doubt because he knows Schaefer quite well: they did a CD together. In the hands of Mathieu they melt together into an hour long piece of music. The crackles of the records play a minor role, but never seem far away, while the majority of the music is made of long stretched out deep cello like sounds - ok, I just made that up since the original uses a lot of cello and violin, while the piano is either processed beyond belief or simply absent. One long flow of sound here of majestic beauty, calm and tranquil. Music that fills head and space in a similar fashion. Eno like ambient music that easily matches the work of the master.
(Vital Weekly, The Netherlands)
Similar notions are explored in the contemporaneously released Remain, which is based on work by another of Mathieu’s sometime collaborators. Janek Schaefer produced an installation for the 2007 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival entitled Extended Play (Triptych For The Child Survivors Of War And Conflict), which was a musing on two births, separated by considerable time and space: that of his own mother in Poland in 1942, and his daughter in far more recent and less fraught times. A Polish tango from the era was used as the basis for a new composition, which was then split up into its constituent parts and scattered across a number of vinyl records, which played from clusters of gramophones around the hall, all bathed in a blood red light. The exhibition was designed so that those visiting it would unintentionally interfere with the playback, causing the records, which were in any event playing back at different speeds, to pause, and thereby “extend”, resulting in a new creation of indeterminate length.
Mathieu was playing the recording of Schaefer’s piece around his own home on a variety of different soundsystems simultaneously, enjoying the different ways in which the frequencies interacted with the various spaces. He decided to capture these resonances, using microphones and repeated recordings and playbacks, much in the manner of Alvin Lucier’s famous I Am Sitting In A Room, before processing and further extending them into an hour long version. The original instrumentation is once again well buried well beneath a shimmering ocean of sound, a piano briefly emerging above the surface at the thirty minute mark, a violin at fifty; even the vinyl crackle of the original is now just the patter of raindrops on water. It is again the resonance which dominates, never still, constantly mutating, the waves reaching peaks of room-rattling proportions before gradually falling back once more.
The cover of Remain retains the vivid red light of Schaefer’s original work, but stretches it like a Rothko to fill the canvas. And that comparison is quite apt when it comes to a piece like this, a huge, seemingly monolithic (it is composed of one sixty minute track) construction which when perceived close up, as well as immersing and overawing, also reveals whole worlds of detail, brush stroke, surface imperfections and colour. There are a million shades of red herein, but all are full of blood, teeming with life. But if it had been Mathieu’s ambition on both A Static Place and Remain to, like Rothko, “create a place”, he would have overachieved. He has done far, far more than this, with masterpieces which completely obliterate the boundaries between different places and times, to create new singularities. These are recordings to treasure forever, whatever forever means.
It's always a pleasure to hear new sonic work from Mathieu, and this CD release begins 2011 for the artist and label in fine form. A single 60minute track of thoughtful sound design. Using three advanced techniques (entropic setup,spectral analysis and convolution processes) Mathieu re-imagine's Janek Shaefer's Extended Play release with fascinating results.
The composition begins with a 'slow to form' arc of subdued vinyl crackle and mid to high register drones, shortly after lower base tones fade in, underpinning the emerging sounds. Mathieu's placement of the individual textures in the sonic landscape allow the whole composition to breathe throughout, and this creates a wonderful backdrop for contemplation. This piece works very well both on headphones, and in a room setting played at a relaxing volume.
As tiny flecks of sound enter during the halfway mark, it becomes clear that the processes Mathieu employs allow the original harmonic colouration of Extended Play to shine through, while at the same time providing a fresh perspective with which to view this work.
As the piece fades out, Mathieu's skill in thoughtful sound design is clearly evident. The familiarity of the original paralleled against Mathieu's skillful reworking and application of processes cements a feeling of nostalgia and yet still provides a piece that will reveal fresh new textures and narrative's with each listen.
Radioland was almost like staring down a kaleidoscope, with the same thematic sets of colours dissolving and re-appearing in different forms and locations, Remain is a composition of softer lights and more gradual transitions in state – the piece never really reaches a stage of blistering full-radiance, settling for a sort of moody evening glow that dims and intensifies smoothly and carefully.
It’s an hour of minimal activity, with mercurial layers oozing out of the center as placid drones that ascend, fall back and become replaced in a seamless cycle. I get the impression that Remain is quite happy to swim around the subconscious during a state of sleep and to be quietly absorbed without thought, and in fact, the whole experience passes incredibly quickly, even to a fully conscious listener.
It feels as though Mathieu is reluctant to disturb the watery stasis that quickly establishes itself in Remain. Some may find the piece to be a little too cautious as a result, taking only warm, muffled steps forward and introducing only the most explicitly complimentary slithers of texture throughout – barely audible static undercurrents, dampened and intermittent spills of piano keys. But all of this appears to be designed to provoke certain activity from the listener, which is to sink into a meditative state – to descend into absolute contemplation and cut loose from everything else, and to remain without any desire to leave. Whether Mathieu is able to take you there will depend entirely upon who is listening.
While A Static Place includes five pieces, the Line release, Remain, is a single-track piece that's also one hour in length (Mathieu's clearly got a jones for even numbers); that it was released pretty much concurrently with the 12k album confirms that Remain can be regarded as a companion work to A Static Place. Unlike the 12k project, Remain uses material from Janek Schaefer's Extended Play as a springboard, with Mathieu reprocessing the material using, in his own words, “an entropic setup, spectral analysis and convolution processes.” One needn't be intimidated by such a description, as however Mathieu goes about creating the material he does, it's always eminently accessible and, on its own sweeping terms, ultra-musical. What we get are impossibly long and droning swathes of softly shimmering sound, with much of it wrapped in a semi-transluscent gauze. Along its edges barely perceptible drifts of crackle and static appear, but so quietly they fade into the background, especially when one's attention is focused upon the gentle rise and fall of the tones themselves. Mathieu operates with the utmost precision in a sound sculpting capacity, and his handling of the material is so controlled the tension generated can start to feel unbearable, especially when it's sustained for an hour. Once acclimated, the listener first relaxes and then begins to imagine him/herself basking in the splendour of some celestial palace, reclining on a soft couch in front of an open window and watching clouds roll by in slow motion. Just as one is about to disappear within the mirage altogether, Mathieu has a piercing tone move to the forefront to ensure no one drift off prematurely. That's about as much of a deviation from the work's overall serene countenance, however, and Remain ends up being one more engrossing chapter in the sterling body of work Mathieu is slowly amassing.
There’s two ways of coming at this album by Stephan Mathieu a prolific musician from Germany. You can go in blind and listen to what appears to be a masterful piece of drone work, engrossing and enjoyable enough to warrant repeated plays. You can come to the conclusion that Remain is a 60 minute piece that sounds as if Stephan is perhaps using some synths and some occasional field recordings in a very predetermined manner. Or you can go to Stephan’s website and read up on the method and execution of the piece and come away even more amazed than you otherwise would have been.
The way Stephan has created this piece is by taking Janek Schaefer’s Extended Play and having up to four copies looping in his house from various sources that are spread across three floors. So he has ended up with a constantly changing version of the original. Extended Play itself was more than just a piece of music it was an installation that involved the same piece being played on 9 different turntables that are set to repeat playing the disc but at different speeds.( It was a fairly involved installation and there’s a mountain of information about it on Janek’s website). Stephan’s means of having four of these records playing constantly is his way of paying homage to Janek’s original idea of an ever changing and mutating piece. Stephan recorded the sounds he was getting from these looped records by putting microphones in different location in his house and then digitally worked on the results using similar method to those he used on A Static Place (which Remain is supposed to act as a coda to).
The results are rather impressive. There is a recurring drone that appears throughout the piece and at times is superseded by other sounds coming in and going out but the original is always there lurking in the background. It’s a very warm piece and the sounds I thought were field recordings are quite possibly surface noise off the vinyl. It all evolves in a very natural way, layers of sounds at different pitches all coming together and slowly moving apart making a very enveloping piece quite cocooning in some ways. It works well in a darkened room as its slow moving nature and its depth and warmth give it a sort of relaxing feel.
Overall hard to fault this piece there’s nothing negative about it that comes to mind. Stephan is currently working with Robert Hampson in a reformed Main and I for one am now looking forward to seeing what Stephan brings to Main.
Stephan Mathieu ist vielleicht neben Marcus Schmickler der einzige Computermusiker, der digitale Drones erzeugen kann, die erdig, organisch und absolut kraftvoll klingen. Remains wurde in zwei Jahren aus Sourcings von Janek Schaefer erarbeitet und zu einem langsam sich aufbauschenden Klangstrom moduliert. Beim Hören denkt man an Farben, an warme Abende im Sommer. Remains versteckt endlos viele kleine Bewegungen im großen Gesamtmovement; wie kleine Bäche fließen sie in den großen Gesmtstrom, der schlußendlich im Meer mündet. Ein absolut toller Release.
In Soft Machine’s Bundles 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 A Static Place 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 Remain is the direct consequence of a precise choice. In fact, this is the reworking of pre-existent materials, taken from Janek Schaefer’s Extended Play. 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.
Pero si de grandes paisajes hablamos, tenemos “Remain”, cuyo origen esta también en material de terceros. Hace tres años se publicó “Extended Play [Triptych For The Child Survivors Of War And Conflict]” del músico Janek Schaefer (Line, 2008), e igual que el anterior recurría a un sistema complejo recurriendo a composiciones antiguas. La fascinación de Mathieu por ese disco lo llevo a crear el suyo, en base a ese. Micrófonos colocados en diferentes lugares de una casa de tres pisos mientras suena el CD de Schaefer en diversas fuentes distribuidas en el piso, de una manera similar a la fuente reflejada. Y eso, otra vez un proceso complejo, da lugar a una sola pieza de sesenta minutos. Así vemos como los tres datos previos nos hagan ya afirmar que estos son dos discos hermanos. Esta versión es una extensión del anterior, aunque sea de duración similar, lleva sus materias primas hasta la extenuación, la melodía invariable hasta que se consuma y se vuelva de un rojo abrasivo, tal y como se ve en la portada. Un monumento al rescate y a la celebración de la obra hecha ajena, modifica por completo y hace que revisemos el concepto que teníamos del remix.
La duda acerca de cual es el hermano mayor aún no la tengo resuelta, y si tuviera que elegir entre quedarme con uno o quedarme con otro, solo podría decir que los escojo a los dos. Ambos tienen un poder y un atractivo que otorgan algunos trabajos, mayormente ignorados, a un costado de casi todas las listas, pero que reconfortan tanto como una canción de tres minutos. Stephan Mathieu no tiene que probar nada, solo confirmar, y lo hace por partida doble. Él y el remanente de un lugar estático.
Pochi mesi dopo A Static Place, dato alle stampe dalla 12k di Taylor Deupree, Stephan Mathieu ritorna a pubblicare per i tipi dell'etichetta consorella LINE, diretta da Richard Chartier. Il musicista di Saarbrücken si serve per l'occasione di una serie di materiali ricavati da Extended Play, lavoro di Janek Schaefer che viene riprocessato adoperando "un setup entropico, l'analisi spettrale e processi di circonvoluzione". Nei fatti, un'operazione di vera e propria decostruzione e riconversione a partire da una fonte sonora altra, secondo un processo "entropico" ormai abituale a Mathieu: lavorare sull'impronta sonora originale per processarla fino a stravolgerne completamente le fattezze. Ne deriva un'unica, lunga suite caratterizzata da una serie di arrangiamenti straordinariamente delicati, centrata sulla proverbiale abilità di manipolazione delle variazioni microscopiche del suono da parte dell'autore, sulla sua capacità di ricreare paesaggi acustici di sicura suggestione a partire da un droning fragile, lucente e scultoreo. Quadri sonori di adamantina nitidezza, mood malinconico sfumato ed un suono inafferrabile, ma che pure nel corso degli anni abbiamo imparato ad apprezzare come una delle manifestazioni più originali ed intelligenti della laptop music del nuovo millennio.
(Blow Up, Italy)
Mathieu takes Schaefer’s music—constructed of haunting tape-manipulated layers violin, cello, and piano—and rebuilds it as an ambient and cinematic sea of sound. Again, the music unfolds so slowly that it’s difficult to identify changes or development. Rather, you’re left with the perception of a single shimmering chord sustained for an entire hour. A closer listen reveals a perpetual shifting of instrumental colors that accent different notes of the chord, at times allowing it to hover weightlessly—at other moments adding an anchor of deep bass frequencies. The album’s source acoustic samples are heavily processed, making for what sounds like an entirely electronic composition. There are moments when the layered frequencies sound like a choral ensemble. During the composition’s middle section, feedback-like sound swells over the lush texture. Throughout, the warmth of the recording and production is remarkable, making for an entrancing and enveloping sound.
On both A Static Place and Remain, Mathieu operates at the microscopic level, breaking down recorded material and rebuilding it into a gauzy and meditative sonic haze. Interestingly, given the wildly different source material for the two records—early instrumental music and contemporary classical/ambient—the releases share many sonic similarities. More concerned with holding a moment in space then they are with developing musical ideas or creating motion through chord progressions or melody, both are sedate, ambient works that shimmer with activity under a seemingly still surface.
Stephan Mathieu works with sources from the (often antique, here recent) past to reconfigure the acoustic space around the listener. While spinning Janek Schaefer’s Extended Play around his home simultaneously on a variety of sound systems, he reportedly became engrossed in the differing resonances and ways the frequencies interacted with the various spaces. He decided to capture them using microphones and repeated recordings and playbacks – methodologically and conceptually somewhat after Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room. These were then subjected to spectral expansion through an entropic setup involving convolution processes. The outcome, Remain, plays like an extended mix of his contemporaneous release on label 12k, A Static Place, which it resembles texturally, while being more opened out and sprawling of habit.
Remain's re-imagining of Schaefer begins from quiet, open space with an arc of subdued vinyl clicks and pops hoving into dim view, sub-liminally alluding to accidental rhythm, mid-high register drones, with lower base tones gradually entering, underpinning emerging sounds, suffusing infinite body with dronus succulens in a spectral string suspension. Early on, it leans toward low-end swellings, with an undercurrent of melody, so oblique, though, that consonance might be a more apt designation. Particulate timbres with glints of light shimmer and fade over languorous timelapse string things, piano processed into otherness or subtracted – long droning gauzey swathes of soft soundswim. At the edges small flurries crepitate, then fade away and radiate. Mercurial layers spin out in slow motion from centre point, while new tones upwell and recede supplanted by a new set in cyclical recursion. It’s all in the texture, which lends a certain heimlich feeling – a comfort zone of sumptuous sustains – amid unheimlich concept. But it’s not just accomplished texturalism at work here; it’s also the art of emplacement, of which Mathieu seems increasingly the master; individual textures placed just so in the sound field, so as to aerate the composition, and the listener, over the long haul. The listener swims, adrift in time and space, as blurred audio-flotsam and jetsam from intersecting plates of sound move over each other. The cover of Remain extends the vivid red of Schaefer’s original cover, spreading it over the entire expanse, an apt signifier for its apparently monolithic surface which zoom-in strategies reveal to be teeming – with flux and mutation, and minute variations of tint and tonality. Overall, though, there’s little deviation from its serene demeanour, and Remain remains another engrossing chapter in the artist’s increasingly impressive body of work.