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Stephan Mathieu + Caro Mikalef

Radioland (Panorámica)
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Radioland (Panorámica)
  • In conjunction with Caro Mikalef, Stephan Mathieu follows up last years sold-out Line release Remainwith a much darker episode entitled Radioland (Panorámica). As far as we can tell there’s no direct correlation with his much cherished 2008 album Radioland for Die Schachtel other than aesthetic or titular. It’s a brand new piece of work, commissioned by Panorámica and recorded on March 11, 2011, at Espacio Fundación Telefónica Buenos Aires with a setup comprising two Fender Twin amps, an Ampeg SVT-810 and a 21 x 4m video projection. Stephan is responsible for Radio and processing while Caro plays Columbia Phonoharp. Together they amass a haze of microtonal drone shifts and languid, hanging harmonics feeling at once wide open and really rather dense, as though they’re conducting a heady weather front through cloud seeding-like sonics. If you’re familiar with Mathieu’s work, you’ll know there are very few other composers in possession of such elemental mastery, but there’s also a gritty rawness to this recording, perhaps thanks to his Argentinian counterpart, which lends a dissonant tang and texture which is very welcome to these ears. Recommended.

  • Radioland (Panorámica) is one, long exhale commissioned for Espacio Fundación Telefónice Buenos Aires, with Caro Mikalef on the Columbia Phonoharp (a kind of zither introduced to the market in the 1890s) and eBow and Mathieu processing all the sounds on his computer and manning a radio broadcasting in real time. Argentinian Mikalef is usually more involved in the place where literature and design meet, but has been working on sound art with Mathieu for some time now. As a performing and recording artist, Mathieu has been evolving in many and all directions at once. His most recent work has revolved around hundred-year-old sound technology, including 78 rpm records, wax cylindars and early audio recording and playback machines, saying simply “I love the way they transport sound”. Having been run through his computer, you can only just picture that any of these sources ever come close to a Victrola stylus, but the airy, unbroken drone is so rich in layers and space between layers, it does succeed in mediating an analogue analogy. I dare say that Mathieu is one experimental ambient artist whose every release – whether solo or in collaboration with the likes and breadth of Hans-Joachim Roedelius, David Sylvian, Main, Taylor Deupree or lutanist Josef van Wissem – is worth becoming immersed in. Such high-concept projects have rarely sounded so sweet.

  • …hang on, I’m putting this back to the start, most intriguing it is. Recorded live in Buenos Aires, utilising ebows, phonoharps and processed radio waves, this 40 minute piece is an impressive feat of cosmic drone that builds from serene aircraft hanger ambience into something much more overpowering and majestic, these fine German and Argentinian minds melting their ideas into one gorgeous flowing aural substance that shimmers and sings like an android choral society. Around the halfway mark it develops a seriously ominous tone, like some big imposing enemy spacecraft has decided to try and dock with your baby astroscooter but then, you don’t mind, you always wanted a big hunky sugardaddy galaxian affair anyway. Smother me baby come on do it…..I love your monstrous cyberbreath on my brittle aluminium wings…phwoaar I’m totally consumed….
    (Norman Records, UK)

  • the embers of last year’s Remain still a-glow, Stephan Mathieu gets back on Line with another long form work, Radioland (Panorámica). Originally an audiovisual piece commissioned for Panorámica, performed live in Buenos Aires, Mathieu enlists Argentine artist Caro Mikalef to play his live body double: she specializes in octave virginals and ebowed Phonoharp zither, Mathieu’s lately favoured early instruments, freeing him up to take charge of shortwave radio and processing (plus overseeing a setup comprising two Fender Twin amps, an Ampeg SVT-810 and a 21 x 4m video projection). This live release’s relation to Mathieu’s previous Radioland is more one of shared process than sonic outcome: where that studio-bound Radioland was the outcome of sifting through and editing down hours of material, this live incarnation foregrounds aleatory and improvisational aspects; and the studio version represented one of several possible narratives stitched up disjunctively from prefabricated performance, whereas live capture allows for more exploratory navigations to extend and merge into an organic whole. Prelude: a soundmass, slowly moving, a distant rumble, undulating, ebbing and flowing, just above the event horizon, the sound envelope seemingly solid, inaccessible, as if a sonic black hole with a faint pulse within. Then the soundfield expands, a miasma of modulations melting into a static plasmatic space, vibrations in slow-mo outfolding. Chronostatic scanes, diverse upwellings, an echoing delight of timbres, receding once registered. It alternates between shimmering expansive tonal passages and more dissonant textural layers of delicate static, sometimes seemingly infinite strings, occasionally a fugitive radio transmission peeking through. A mellifluous aural nectar stream bordering on virtual choir whose song is formed of harmonic aggregates clusters of varying density and tone colour, washed out to saturated. A nebulous suspension of microtone drone and excavated harmonics, simultaneously expansive and densely tesselated. While imbued with the customary Mathieu sound and sensibility, Radioland (Panorámica) is a bit rawer, with dips into dissonance, particularly around halfway where an ominous tone sets in, the final dénouement setting sumptuous tones against a reverberant rapture of metals and a rising tide white noise, ending not so much in ascent as an absorbing murk. So, though organic sound sources and live recording partly make for an enhancement of the signature warmth and luxuriance for which he is justly renowned, this is ultimately a more tenebrous piece than Mathieu standard, though no less engaging for it.

  • With two brilliant albums recently released (Remain and A Static Place), and time spent playing live with Robert Hampson in the reactivated version of Main, Stephan Mathieu has been leaving quite an impact on me this past year, and this live collaboration with Argentina’s Caro Mikalef continues that streak of genius.

    Originally commissioned as an audio-visual piece, Radioland works perfectly well on its own as a purely sonic document.  Using only a phonoharp, radios, ebows and processing, the result is a slow, developing piece that never seems to stop developing over its 40-plus minute duration.

    Between the use of organic sound sources and the live recording (the performance was recorded through Fender amps via microphones), the natural warmth that Mathieu specializes in shines through on here, which is something too many works such as this often lack.

    The performance opens with distant rumblings that eventually swell up and then linger, reverberating off in the darkness.  Different layers of sound swell up, mostly just sparse tones early on but they echo beautifully, then recede before they have a chance to overstay their welcome.

    Throughout the piece, there is a sense of slow movement. It feels less like a single piece and more like a series, intertwined together perfectly, seamlessly flowing from one to the next.  The performance alternates between shimmering, tonal passages that extend forever and more dissonant, textural layers of delicate static. Sometimes there are seemingly infinite strings expanding into space, and other times it sounds like a long-lost garbled radio transmission sneaking in.

    Glorious, soaring highs alternate with deep, pensive lows that make this an overall darker work than much of Mathieu’s previous recordings, but it still is undeniably his work.  Rich tones and hollow metallic reverberations are eventually met with sheets of white noise towards the final third of the piece, changing the direction somewhat and eventually ending things on an even more dissonant, murky note.

    Radioland does have a distinctly different feel than Mathieu’s other output, which is likely the result of collaborating with Mikalef, as well as the live setting, but it is by no means weaker.  Instead it is a different, slightly darker and rawer sounding performance that stands on its own.  The way the different tones and textures segue into one another so well, a natural and dynamic feeling has been established throughout that keeps it fascinating from beginning to end.

  • Le 11 mars 2011, Stephan Mathieu “joua” de la radio à Buenos Aires en présence d’une musicienne du pays, Caro Mikalef qui, elle, jouait de la cithare phonoharp en utilisant des e-bows.

    Est-ce l’Argentine ou ma mémoire qui me joue des tours lorsque j’écoute Radioland ? Ou le drone qui parcourt lentement la pièce ? Il vient de loin, rampe, grimpe et dépose dans l’air une musique spectrale qui balance, qui retourne les meubles et les fait flotter. Après, le drone de déshabille, et les premières voix radiophoniques se glissent entre ses couches à terre.

    Ce n’est qu’à ce moment que j’ai compris comment « sonnait » la radio de Stephan Mathieu. Son signal a longtemps été attendu. La cithare a empli le vide qu’elle laissait. C’est la voix de Mikalef qui m’a fait patienter. Des photos me montrent que Mathieu utilisa aussi un laptop. Curieux. Qu’importe. C’est bien Mikalef qui m’a fait patienter.
    (le son du grisli)

  • Como su título indica, este disco es una evolución del celebrado Radioland (08), posiblemente la referencia más conocida (también una de los mejores) del compositor alemán Stephan Mathieu. Decir ‘evolución’ en este caso es meterse en camisas de once varas, porque Mathieu es un tipo al que le interesa, sobre todo, la manipulación de fuentes de sonido con un cierto punto de obsolescencia: discos de pizarra (muy) antiguos, cintas carcomidas por el polvo, instrumentos que ya no se utilizan y ondas de radio son algunos de sus cachivaches preferidos; un material de base que luego manipula mediante técnicas de grabación poco convencionales y procesos de síntesis en los que apenas quedan reveladas ciertas características de las fuentes originales. Es así como construye piezas de apariencia fantasmal y largo desarrollo climático; ese tipo de ambient en el que da la impresión de que el tiempo se suspende, en el que las leyes de la física parecen quebrarse, al capricho de algún lamento acústico de origen indescifrable. Así que Radioland (Panoramica) apenas comparte con su antecesor el punto de partida y la estrategia utilizada: la manipulación de ondas de radio capturadas al azar. Una estrategia que convierte a cada representación de la pieza en una experiencia única, que depende muchísimo del espacio geográfico (en este caso, Buenos Aires) y de su particular espectro radiofónico, y que para la ocasión se completa con la aportación de Caro Mikalef, que añade a la pieza los pulsos de un autoarpa, tocada con técnicas poco convencionales (slides, canicas, e-bows y demás juguetitos). Un instrumento cuyas notas y drones se enredan con delicadeza infinita entre los pliegues atmosféricos de Mathieu, aportando ocasionales explosiones climáticas (oleadas de rudio, oscuras lamentaciones, estallidos de luz) al fascinante discurso del alemán. Brillante.
    (GoMag, ES)

  • (Stephan Mathieu)’s not someone who often changes his approaches, making long form sustaining works. Yet this new release is a bit different. Its of course not the first time he works with somebody else, but with his partner Caro Mikalef who plays a Columbia Phonoharp and e-bows and Mathieu on radio and processing, this live recording shows how this sounds live. A recording from Buenos Aires last year and while it has that great sensibility of almost any Mathieu recording, one can also say that this is all a bit more raw, rougher at the edges. Perhaps, I think, this is a recording made with a microphone, which shows us the way this kind of music bounces around in a space, which then in return gives us this raw edge. Principally this is not a work that is radically different from what Mathieu has produced in recent years, but then this is an interesting variation of what he does. Somehow darker, maybe even leaning towards ambient industrial at times, and that’s perhaps the nice quality of this. Normally I would mind the release of a live recording, unless its for a special occasion (but a great studio recording of ‘Radioland’ already exists), but in this case I very gladly make an exception. Excellent release.
    (Vital Weekly, NL)

  • …un documento de una presentación en vivo, algo que muy bien saben hacer en el sello de Washington. Pero para la ocasión no está solo, sino que viene acompañado de la argentina Caro Mikalef, artista cofundadora dl estudio de diseño Cabina, quien ya ha trabajado con Mathieu. La pieza única que abarca todo el CD es originalmente una pieza audiovisual que fue comisionada para el encuentro Panorámica y presentada en marzo 11 del 2011 en el Espacio Fundación Telefónica en Buenos Aires. Pero para ir a ella, debemos primero fijar la mirada en Radioland (Die Schachtel, 2008), un disco basado en señales de radio de onda corta procesadas en tiempo real, una inmersión en ese maravilloso universo que es la radio, que pese  no siempre mostrarnos y sorprendernos como debiera, aún así depara algunos momentos memorables. Sin embargo, para Mathieu todo lo que sale de ese aparato él lo devuelve como una masa concreta de sonidos rugosos, en los límites de la belleza más insondable. “Radioland” sirve para vislumbrar todo lo que es capaz Mathieu, quien a partir de una premisa sencilla crea una obra oscura y cargada. Pues, su disco para Line es tomar ese trabajo y llevarlo al paroxismo, la exacerbación de una idea hasta los límites de lo real. El alemán por su lado (radio y procesamiento de sus ondas) y la argentina por otro (Columbia phonoharp, e-bows) se encuentran en el camino que lleva a la tierra de las radios. Con un equipo sencillo y muy pocas herramientas a la mano, Mathieu + Mikalef crea una pieza en expansión difícil de controlar. Como el universo mismo, las orbitas cada vez van cambiando y el espacio se va dilatando hasta abarcar lo imposible –siempre me he preguntado, inconforme yo, que hay más allá del universo–, de la misma forma, las ondas radiales se hacen dueñas del espacio, cualquiera que este sea –una sala en Buenos Aires, la habitación en donde uno lo escuche– y ocupan cada uno de sus metros cúbicos. Es este un disco con un enorme poder físico, como también lo es Remain, o muchas de las obras de William Basinski, o la serie Xerrox de Alva Noto. Electrónica absorta que utiliza recursos que ahora parecen prehistóricos en cuarenta minutos donde el espacio se nubla y esparce y el tiempo se pierde. Para quienes lo conozcan solo de pasada les sonora repetido, para quienes no, una fascinante aproximación a su creación infinita de la mano de su compañera, una variación en cromo primitivo que en sus movimiento largos deja traslucir una quietud inquietante.
    (hawai, ES)

  • Pire cauchemar pour certains, véritable accomplissement pour d’autres, la perspective de jouer avec son/sa bien-aimé(e) est devenue réalité pour les deux artistes en présence. Si on connait peu Caro Mikalef, on accueille le légendaire Stephan Mathieu avec tous les honneurs, son génial A Static Place n’étant que la partie émergée de l’iceberg. Ce disque en commun est en réalité une prestation live jouée à Buenos Aires en mars 2011, dans le cadre du festival Panorámica. Une performance où il est difficile de distinguer une quelconque répartition des tâches, tant ce Radioland est un magma lent et étouffé. Radioland n’est pas bien original, il faut le dire, mais outre le fait qu’il combine à merveille tout le cahier de charges du genre, il est drôlement bien exécuté. Une séance de quarante minutes de drones élégants et de nappes ambient qui gratouillent, de déclinaisons subtiles et rapidement enchanteresses. Si les premières écoutes sont un peu oppressantes on se rend peu à peu compte que la lumière entre de partout dans cette pièce unique, qui garde néanmoins de forts accents post-industriels. L’architecture prend racine et se construit peu à peu, essentiellement dans la succession de nappes tout en résonnance. Au bout de ces quarante minutes – de préférence jouées à un volume soutenu – on sort du flou avec une grosse impression. Preuve qu’on tient là un bon disque, incontestablement.
    (Off The Radar)

  • Upon immersing yourself into Mathieu’s new album Radioland (Panorámica), you feel exactly that, that you have found a place where “there’s nothing else in your world”. Followers of Stephan Mathieu’s work will remember his 2008 album Radioland and will wonder how this new piece relates to the old one. If both albums share the same process (vintage zither played with electro-magnets and shortwave radio both being sent to a custom-made software and modulating each other), they’re very different in outcome. As a point of departure, this is a live recording made in March 2011 at Panorámica in Buenos Aires, and whereas the studio album’s tracks were chosen and edited amongst hours of material later discarded, here it’s all about the improvisational aspect of the process, and its idiosyncratic potential for ‘failure’. And as opposed to Radioland having several micro and macro narratives sewn together as disjointed coordinates, the live version is more about an extended exploration of alien territories, slowly mutating and merging into one another. Last but not least, Argentinian artist Caro Mikalef whom Mathieu has chosen to collaborate with to play the zither, shares the bill and opens the recording to new possibilities. It is unclear if Mikalef is very familiar with the intricacies of the instrument and the overall concept/process behind Radioland, but it’s only fair to assume that she approached the whole piece from an outsider’s point of view, or a least from a different point of view, giving Mathieu new challenges to work with during a live performance, which becomes over the course of the album a delicate balancing act between both musicians.

    All you hear at first is a mass of sound, slowly moving, undulating, ebbing and flowing, just above the surface of silence. You can feel movements as the music tries to reach you but the language remains alien. The envelope of sound seems solid, unable to accommodate the listener and it feels like gravitating around a sonic black hole from which nothing escapes but a faint pulse. Then it suddenly happens, the fabric of time slowly stretches and dissolves, as shifting frequencies exert their pull on the space around them, a space which becomes elastic all at once. It is as if a threshold had been crossed and you were now inside the music, watching vibrations unfold in slow-motion, time having been suddenly frozen. And from this place, only the essence of music remains, emerging from the void and carving a space around the listener. It may be synchronicity but with this elusive sense of wonder that slowly emerges, the spiritual is strongly conjured by liturgical motifs whose harmonic components imperceptibly grow in density as slow temporal shifts manifest their presence in the form of low frequency oscillations. If there is a sense of place at this time, the piece then evolves towards quasi-static sheets of sounds that become more planar and bi-dimensional in their projection, thus dissolving any thereness that might have occurred. Like Rothko’s intense rectangular shapes floating onto one another where one can explore the fabric of space, the vibrating layers of Mathieu’s and Mikalef’s drones seem to detach themselves from each other, and as one tries to focus on their respective temporal modulations, it feels like moving through the fabric of time – a mesmerising experience. At this point, the music itself has turned into a multiplicity of strata whose core is set in motion by infinitesimal pulsations breathing so organically they seem to all have an autonomous existence. Those strata appear and disappear to form harmonic clusters of varying density, and whose colours become more and more saturated, pushing the listeners to the edge of sound and preparing them for the intense section to follow. Soon sonic aggregates grow larger and larger, as both players seem to find a point of singularity where, through mutual resonances, their respective intents are amplified all at once. Music is finally allowed to breathe in unison, locking Mikalef and Mathieu into a set of primal frequencies that simultaneously conjure elation and surrender – a pivotal moment for the album. It feels they’ve found an elusive space where they’ve become one – one as a duo, one in their multiplicity and one with the now. From this point onwards things turned into a slow dive from the celestial to the terrestrial, a re-connection in slow motion with reality and corporeity, as identifiable radio broadcasts emerges from a dense mesh of shifting harmonics and eat away at the music before disappearing into the vortex of silence – a truly beautiful and eerie ending.

    Throughout Radioland (Panorámica), the attentive listener can feel intensities and undercurrents circulating and giving the music a true sense of breathing, as if life itself were being pumped up through shifting overtones. But it’s really when those currents start vibrating in unison that the piece reaches it apex to conjure the sublime. At this point it’s not about Mathieu and Mikalef anymore, but about a meta-entity that has suddenly discovered the existence of a secret/sacred territory where one can get lost at last. And in this very moment, one can “overstep the very limits of human existence” and feel truly liberated “in the midst of greatness”.

  • Le label Line vient vient également de publier un album réunissant l’allemand Stephan Mathieu et l’argentine Caro Mikalef pour une performance audiovisuelle donnée en public au Panomarica de Buenos Aires il y a un an, en mars 2011. Stephan Mathieu est un musicien autodidacte, il compose des œuvres électro et électroacoustiques très abstraites, il a une passion pour les instruments, les enregistreurs, les moyens de diffusion obsolètes, les vinyles 78 tours et les enregistrements d’ambiances sonores. Sa production discographique et ses collaborations avec de grands noms de la musique électronique sont multiples, je pourrais citer entre autres son travail avec Sylvain Chauveau, avec Robert Hampson, avec Taylor Deupree, Jozef van Wissem ou David Sylvian. Caro Mikalef beaucoup moins célèbre puisqu’elle consacre sa vie professionnelle au design, elle est pourtant une des rares et très bonne joueuse de virginal et de cithare phonoharpe, elle avait déjà collaboré par le passé avec Stephan Mathieu. Leur enregistrement s’intitule Radioland, il est constitué d’une seule et même pièce, une pièce tout en douceur qui semble s’écouler lentement sur une quarantaine de minutes. On est assez proches des musiques cosmiques des années 70 mais avec un traitement sonore très actuel. Radioland est une œuvre électronique ambiant qui commence et se termine de façon très zen avec une montée en puissance sonore au deux tiers de sa longueur, une œuvre qui invite plus à la méditation, au lâcher prise et à la modification des états de conscience qu’a l’analyse musicale mais tout cela est simplement très beau.
    (France Musique, FR)

  • Stephan Mathieu + Caro Mikalef’s “Radioland (Panoramica)” is yet another highly enjoyable long form ambient work on the Line label.  Stylistically,  this is “classic” ambient music: the track is a slowly evolving synth tone cluster in a massive reverberant soundspace,  with similar timbres to the work of Steve Roach,  and the same billowing,  upper atmospheric feeling many of his albums have,  though Mathieu and Mikalef seem to prefer a more minimal chordal framework., At first,  a whistling in the distance comes closer and closer.  There’s a sense of calm and sedation not unlike waking up on an airplane at night to find everyone asleep,  and darkness through the windows.  “Panoramica” already seems a fitting title; I feel as if I’m struggling to glimpse the ground below through layers and layers of clouds., Then,  a melancholy,  longing chord,  a possible loneliness,  which soon submerges beneath a delirious oceanic murk of dissonant pitches,  then re-emerges again around the 12 minute mark.  It’s a painfully intense feeling of wanting,  which is thankfully resolved later., In its second half,  the piece solidifies and strengthens into greater droning consonance as bass tones are added,  and rises gradually into a clearer and more hopeful headspace.  The music becomes even more minimal at this point,  with the primary changes being the slow but rhythmic undulations of sweeping filters and the patient growth of the drone.  The empowering feeling the music imparts prevents any boredom., In the final minutes,  the artists begin some melodic development again,  and the emotional effect of these progressions is intense.  The sound recedes into the distance,  beautiful and contented as a sunset., This may not be a work of singular originality in the ambient realm,  but it certainly has a profound effect on my emotions.  Mathieu and Mikalef have masterful paced this track’s development of mood,  and after listening one feels as if some negativity has been overcome. Recommended for fans of synth ambience and drone.

  • Anyone who enjoyed Mathieu’s last Line release,Remain, is in for a treat here. (If you haven’t heard Remain, I cannot recommend it enough! It’s sold out, but still available digitally.) Much like RemainRadioland is one prolonged, slow motion track that gradually shifts focus over time. Photographs of the duo’s installation performance of the piece, posted on Line’s website, cast the duo under floods of color, changing over time. That’s pretty much how this music sounds, like the innermost haze of a Rothko painting, submerged far enough into the cloud to not even make out the fuzzy boundaries that define his paintings. But there is a comfort in that submergence, despite the finished results being slightly darker than Mathieu’s Remain. The two collaborate well, creating a slowly evolving sound that is akin to slowly phasing from one shape to another, a vibrant and mildly tense transformation that’s ongoing. For consisting almost entirely of drones, this is a surprisingly varied performance, albeit one that changes so subtly over time that one might not notice how distinctly different portions of the piece are. One need only to jump around to different start times to notice how different portions are from others. But this is best experienced, of course, start to finish, preferably not overthinking it and just letting it envelop you, taking you to another place, dark, vague and warm.
    (Ear Influxion)