Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Year-End Post IV : Stephan Mathieu : A Static Place

On A Static Place, some of the earliest and the latest playback and recording devices combine to create an album a hundred years in the making, one that is static and spectral in both senses of both words. Any of the four interpretations will work: little changes, white noise abounds, it is constructed with the works of long-dead instrumentalists, and said construction dances around much of the audible spectrum.

When listening I can’t help but think of the album tracks as movie stills, single frames. It is obvious an entire world has been created and captured, but we are only given these small windows of opportunity to peer inside and try to make sense of it all. Nothing really moves or changes, but the scenery requires scanning. Surely there are clues to be found within, but the scope of the work renders any that might actually surface all but irrelevant.

The macbook-via-gramaphone processing technique Mathieu has developed gives the album an indecipherable omnipresence. While much of the 78-rpm source material is concentrated into a tonal haze, bits of the original material occasionally slip through undisturbed. The result is as classic as it is modern as it is neither.

While much of album’s appeal can be attributed to process and source material, there is obviously more than mere technique at work here. The evidence of Stephan’s skilled hands and patient ears are all over. The layering and depth are remarkable, maintaining an excellent density without becoming too overwrought. Process-intensive records like this make it easy to overlook the investment of the creator, but I find it hard to imagine this collection of artisanal monoliths coming from anyone else. Lesser hands simply could not have produced this.

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