Stephan Mathieu/Douglas Benford: Reciprocess +/vs. vol. 2

This Mathieu-Benford collaboration is the second installment in the Reciprocess +/vs. series, released on Philippe Petit's BiP_HOp label in association with Christopher Murphy's Fällt. The series concept transcends one artist merely remixing another; instead, a release includes collaborative pieces, individual tracks, and remixes of each other's works. The idea originated out of Petit's desire to document the process of reciprocality between artists, with even Fehler's outstanding design reinforcing the idea as the packaging flips inside-out to display the presentation of one participant mirrored by the other. In this instance, Benford contributes four individual pieces and Mathieu two, with the rest collaborations of one sort or another. Both artists are well-established, of course, Benford for his numerous Si-cut.db releases on Sprawl and Suburbs of Hell and his partnership with Benjamin Edwards (Benge) in Tennis, and Mathieu renowned for solo works on labels like 12k, Mille Plateaux, Ritornell, and for Heroin, his collaboration with Ekkehard Ehlers.

Mathieu's a digital pointillist with a propensity for microscopic detailing whose meticulous dissections translate into sonorous, reverberant sound sculptures. Like others in the microsound genre, he deliberately foregrounds the detritus of digital mistakes—clicks, pops, static, hiss—in order to weave sensuous soundscapes from them. Benford shares Mathieu's love of texture but approaches it in a dubbier manner, his style characterized by spaciousness, echo, and billowing atmospheres. Their collaborative opener “Und.And,” a shimmering aural construction with creaking waves swathed in crackling hiss and static, is a Master Class in sonic textures. Another collaborative track, “Don't.Ask” teems with dense droning flurries of electronics that recall the style of kindred spirit Fennesz. As his solo tracks indicate, Benford's music flirts with conventionality in its incorporation of rhythm elements, and, in the joint piece “Novecento.Avocado,” his dubby bass lines, hi-hats, and bass combine to suggest a minimal house beat alongside Mathieu's cloud of crackle and static. Mathieu's tracks are resolutely uncommercial by comparison, as the tracks float amorphously without anchor. The gentle meandering drone ‘Octavia.Drive' and “Adorable.Capitolism” with its brightly thrumming, hiccupping fragments are quintessential Mathieu. The general mood of Reciprocess +/vs. vol. 2 is atmospheric with an emphasis on digital processing, soundscapes that glisten, swirl, and whirr, and dubby loops. Yet in spite of its intricate and clinical detailing, the results are warm and inviting with traces of melancholy occasionally surfacing. Even though the two have different leanings—Benford techno-dub and Mathieu sculpted minimalism— their simpatico sensibilities produce a relatively homogeneous result where it's sometimes difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Ideally, a collaboration should result in some unique synergistic amalgam that neither collaborator would produce alone and that's—subtly, admittedly—the case here.

January 2004