Stephan Mathieu: On Tape

On Tape departs noticeably from electronic artist Mathieu's BiP_HOp, Ritornell, and Orthlorng Musork recordings. In contrast to the concise and direct approach of frequencyLib and Full Swing Edits, for example, On Tape features an uninterrupted performance recorded on the evening of February 21, 2004 at Fulkingen, Stockholm. The piece meanders languorously for thirty-two minutes but its seeming looser, less structured feel is deceptive as Mathieu modulates transitions with care and purposefulness. He constructed the piece using recordings by the Swedish group Tape and saxophonist Magnus Granberg to which Mathieu added his own drumming and field recordings. As one might expect, the work's trajectory is unusual. Opening with organ-like swirls, a barely audible wave of hiss starts to emerge behind fly buzzings and shuffling noises. Mathieu then adds layers of magnified breathing sounds, piercing sine tones, and gradually saxophones. The ever-thickening drone glacially unfurls like a congealing mass, with tones intermittently emerging like foghorns, until Mathieu's subtle percussive accents add a richly textured dimension. Eventually, rapid electronic surges and sharp bell tones are the only sounds that remain, although bucolic sounds of chirping birds and children's voices surface near the end. While On Tape exudes his customary intelligence and imagination, Mathieu chose to eschew the application of normal computer processing treatments. While short by album standards, this evocative and meditative work may portend new directions for this always provocative German artist.

October 2004