Stephan Mathieu & Janek Schaefer: Hidden Name
The seeming incongruity between the child-like drawings adorning Leise and its abstract contents is reconciled when one learns that all of the release's raw sound material was produced by Frans de Waard's daughter Elise (her name an anagram of the recording title) when she was three years old. “Knippers” initiates the disc, de Waard's third Freiband full-length, with high-pitched squeals that might just as easily have originated from Elise's cats as from the metal sheets, paper, sticks, and plastic her father uses for Kapotte Muziek.
After recording the sounds in Boston in 2003, de Waard transformed the recordings via computer processing, obscuring the original sounds' identities without losing their warmth in the process (though faint hints do surface every now and then, like the morphing pulses in “Paarden” that suggest hammering and the rattle sounds one hears during “Rammel”; the album even closes with a few seconds of Elise's untreated vocalizing). Tracks bleed into another like a gently flowing river of electroacoustic minutiae: “Bij” stretches sound into a glacial crawl, the firefly clicks of “Vuur” are so lulling they could induce sleepiness, “Daisee” gently sways like a drifting vessel, and, though its title suggests otherwise, “Storm” is never more than a microsound tempest. Freiband's ‘personal' approach brings a humanizing dimension to a musical style that can often be somewhat clinical and severe.
Having issued joint projects with Ekkehard Ehlers (Heroin) and Douglas Benford (Reciprocess +/vs. vol. 2), Stephan Mathieu is no stranger when it comes to collaborative undertakings. That textural sound sculptor Janek Schaefer is an equally natural partner for Mathieu is indubitably borne out by the quietly magnificent Hidden Name. Having met in Montreal at MUTEK 2002, the two convened a year later to spend a week at Maryanna and John Tavener's home, specifically Manor Farm House located in Child Okeford in the South of England. Drawing from a wealth of sounds produced from instruments (piano, clarinet, cello, flute, trumpet, accordion, sitar, singing bowls, bells, voices), records, and on-site field recordings, the two recorded material which they then reconfigured at the York Music Research Center during the winter of 2005 into the 11 settings on Hidden Name.
Like Leise, originating sounds are sometimes rendered unidentifiable but, unlike the Freiband disc, Hidden Name's settings are full-bodied and dense with detail. Often swathed in layers of surface noise, the myriad sound sources coalesce into gently flowing washes of vinyl crackle and hypnotic ripples pierced by bells, tones, and pizzicato strings. One of the album's most distinguishing features is the contrast that emerges from one piece to the next: “Cosmos” resembles an aviary tour, with the sounds of pigeons cooing, birds chirping, crows cawing, and roosters calling dominating; “Quartet For Flute, Piano And Cello” suggests an ancient vinyl recording discovered in an attic, dusted off, and played on an equally archaic turntable; and the entrancing weave of female voices in “Maori Love Song” recalls Akira Rabelais's mesmerizing Spellewauerynsherde. Equally uncharacteristic, all of the album's pieces are generally short (two to seven minutes) except for the closer, a 20-minute dreamscape titled “The Planets.” Though the resultant recording camouflages the differences in the artists' individual working methodologies, Hidden Name also unites their strengths into a single set. In this particular case, the pastoral setting clearly worked some powerful magic.