STEPHAN MATHIEU – The Falling Rocket


Stephan Mathieu: Farfisa Pro 110, Farfisa Vip 233, Hohner Elektronium, radio

There is an interesting contrast between the symptoms of physical decaying and temporal transitoriness frequently conveyed by some of today’s finest composers’ vision, and the sense of internal incorruptibility experienced when subjected to these processes of contemplation, similar to watching entire ages unfold before our very eyes in an hour or so. The talent in evincing reminiscence – inclusive of remorse – inside a compelling soundscape is a gift shared by a restricted elite of such artists; sure enough, Stephan Mathieu is among them. His utilization of old records and archaic instruments to acoustically explicate the compound of impermanence and sorrow that permeates large parts of a being’s continuance constitutes an estimable attempt to extract profound beliefs from apparently uncomplicated compositional constructions.

An emblematic mistake in approaching The Falling Rocket would be that of placing it in the “mere drone” lower class, perhaps after having played it in the background while doing other things. This is a common problems born from superficial analysis. Not everything is manifest when room and speakers are involved, the primary explanation behind the necessity of recurrent listens in antithetical conditions. The ancestry of the numerous stretched layers might result as rather blurred – still is, in a way – if we weren’t able to glance at the instrumental clothing. Certainly a sensible ear detects the hissing and “feels” the ultrasonic frequencies of the radio waves in the ebbing and flowing of pieces like “Keid” (where Caro Mikalef – also the creator of this outing’s wonderful graphic complements – eBows a Phonoharp in the lone guest appearance) or within the impenetrable “55 Cancri”. However, accepting that the rumble in “Gliese 229 B” is not an airplane but a product of antediluvian keyboards (…or, again, radiophonic matters?) is a little harder. What about those phantom string sections in “Deneb”, then? And how do you render the threateningly virulent roar of “Teide 1” in words?

One could go on and on in verbal descriptions and related incertitude; ultimately, the song remains the same. It always has to do with the consequence of a given assemblage of sonic shades on our mental retention, in particular when that mix strikes the exact point for the inner self to retrieve analogous particulars from the archives of past experiences that have left an indelible sign. The slowly moving masses, the balance of aeriform and solid (if declining) substances, the nebulousness of a distant observation as opposed to the minute details materializing from the fog on a close inspection. And, at last, the emotional palpitation generated by the contiguousness of immediately detectable pitches and less unclouded components; it all reflects decisively on the mood, giving a measure of relief or sinking the heart in somberness. The final track “Kepler-11” is a perfect method to leave someone speechless following 80-plus minutes of unplumbed sentiment, not a surprise for a man who has called his label Schwebung. Basically, the ground upon which consciousness is built.

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