The Sad Mac
) is a work of stifled romanticism. It finds Stephan Mathieu venturing further along the path of organic sound sources, trembling through the labyrinth of delays and ring modulations that his previous release, On Tape
, began to document. Sketched with fluid brushstrokes of noise, tangible textures and truncated blasts of billowing aural dust, The Sad Mac
provides something of a blank canvas upon which listeners may freely paint their own brainwaves.
The 17-minute "Theme for Oud Amelisweerd" creates a downhearted mood, using subtle
digital processing to trample Georg Friedrich Handel's Violin Sonatas underfoot
like pallid mulberry leaves lost in the muck of a rainy afternoon. As the piece
sallies forth, clouds of chopping noise, cavernous reverb and misty slides of
tone hang on an elongated loop of violin inhaling and exhaling. Organic instruments,
from a batch of violas to solitary bagpipes and alto sax, are planted within
these pieces, but buried deeply within the soil of each; Mathieu interpolates
this range of sampled sound sources, skewing their identity. Now and
again, some source material will coalesce out of the sculpted
like weak sunshine through a plane window.
Such an effect appears on "Imagination"; petite, patchy loops of piano melody are played randomly against themselves, configuring novel tones with layers of distortion and faintly flitting hazes of feedback. Each piece appears too random to commit to memory, but too planned to surprise gratuitously. With muffled thumps stammering about, with the gaiety of birdsong and insectile pops and twitches, the piece sketches an elusive but undeniable internal logic guiding the patient disclosure of human passion in all its diversity. Indeed, this work seems a testament to the full spectrum of value and form that comes from an embodied engagement with the world.
From the turgid tones of slowly changing pitches strewn across "Theme for Oud
Amelisweerd," Mathieu alters his relation to successive pieces, to good effect.
He lets organic instruments sketch sad melodies, or bounce about in jarring blasts
of radio broadcast and sine waves; then he puts these disparate sounds through
a cumulative welter of moderation, eliciting ornate, mesmeric throbs of slowly
At moments, when these compositions mutate in measured changes to the point of
enervating the listener, Mathieu may align with the work of Andrew Chalk, Pauline
Oliveros and Akira Rabelais. By and large, though, Mathieu works in a more colorful
realm, painting brighter atmospheres with more variation in the figures. All
of which may be more accessible than such other works in the field as Chalk's
(wonderful) "Fall in the Wake of a Flawless Landscape," or Rabelais' "Benediction
Taking as its fulcrum the brittle crackle of what sounds like broken glass being
shaken in a burlap sack, alongside a bumblebee hum, "Tinfoil Star" hearkens back
to Mathieu's earlier efforts in Frequency Lib
. To "icredevirrA," he adds
subtle accents and dripping coats of sheen, for a piece that swims atop a spiritual
sense of foreboding and recalls Colin Potter's solo endeavors.
With its unruffled manner, mournful demeanor and extended playing time, The Sad Mac
is often engrossing. And with a palette of delectable melodies and audacious approaches to sound, it offers an experience both daunting and exhilarating.