Two names immediately hit my mind as soon as the “shortwave radio” definition comes into sight. John Duncan, who has pushed the methods of management of that particular resource towards formerly unfamiliar territories and unprecedented consequences, his Phantom Broadcast an excellent starting point for the neophyte; and Tod Dockstader, the 3-CD set Aerial signifying a pinnacle as far as the sympathetic qualities of harmonious emanations from the ether are concerned (if your collection doesn’t incorporate this masterpiece, consider yourselves slapped on the knuckles). A niche amidst these beauties is needed today, for Stephan Mathieu’s Radioland adds new connotations to the original notion preserving an awesome aesthetic magnetism for its whole extent.
Mathieu, whose Hidden Name with Janek Schaefer (released by Cronica in 2006) ranks among the most stunning albums heard in many years by this writer, created another superior objet d’art by processing signals drawn together in different sites from June 2005 to November 2006. The source treatment occurred in real time – a feature, this, endowing the record with a much treasured insinuation of “mortal blemish”, still perceivable despite the subsequent post-production. Contrarily to the above mentioned artists’ approach, which tends to leave corporeal mechanisms aside – thus giving the idea of inaccessible locations and predominantly enthralling states – Mathieu extracts the gist of what the inhabitants of those radio zones bear with themselves. Although the music definitely belongs in the top-notch area of spectral stillness (“spectral” meant in the scientific acceptation, although “eerie” wouldn’t be a totally inappropriate description for this sonic substance), there’s something that lurks behind the sheer magnificence of these overlapping, wavering shades. Short shreds of an on-air debate appear, without prior notice, only to fade away in a handful of seconds, and the materialization of a soprano banshee surprises us in a vaporous mass of frequencies. The final track “Prolog im Himmet” makes brilliant use of chanting female voices, captured somewhere between a remote station and the unidentified secrets of our remembrance, somehow recalling Akira Rabelais’ Spellewauerynsherde.
But the uppermost peak of this work, a literal stimulation of the responsive components in the apparatus of unintentional recollection, is “Auf der Gasse”: five minutes of inert echo, apparently void of particularly crucial contents yet animated by a series of hardly perceptible movements under a feeble timbral tissue, elements that cause a harmonic dislocation – bordering on downright nonbeing – which can’t possibly be engraved in the futility of inadequate words. The ones who recognize what I’m talking about will instantly realize that the moment has arrived; others are almost certainly going to try and attach doomed-to-failure definitions, in the hallowed name of their “studies on human advancement” (typically characterized by a hopeless unawareness of the fundamentals, the most important being that the terms “improvement” and “collectivity” do not exert a reciprocal pull).
Radioland must be snatched from the jaws of inattentiveness, today like tomorrow. It’s a marvelous memento of how people’s rationalizations sound dimwitted, while the essential nature of existence – spelled “resonant vibration” – is there for all beings to be pervaded from. Someone’s blessed by an inborn awareness of such phenomena. Meanwhile, on the blunt side of wisdom, self-styled scientists are convinced of having taken hold of the “before and after”, blathering about unfathomable raison d’êtres that do not actually exist, utterly neglectful of the “here and now”, disrespecting the core of the fundamental matter. In a nutshell, incapable of growing up.