Mathieu Ruhlmann: Fourteen Worms for Victor Hugo
Gears of Sand

Having increased his profile via last year's Mesoscaphe collaboration with Celer, sound sculptor Mathieu Ruhlmann returns with a solo collection inspired by Victor Hugo and his writings. In this release, Ruhlmann uses as a focal point séances the devastated Hugo undertook in the hope of communicating with his daughter who had drowned in the Seine . During those séances, he supposedly made contact with not only people—Jesus, Galileo, and Plato apparently three of them—but also non-human entities such as the Ocean and the Moon. Among the strange and poetic messages he received from the beyond was one that described four levels of re-incarnation determined by how one lived one's life: a terrible life would lead to reincarnation as a pebble, the next level plant, then animal or insect, and finally human being. Captivated by the idea, Ruhlmann created the seven-part “The Shortest Path From Pebble to God” which draws in part upon the sonic exploitation of rocks and plants, as well as other, oft-idiosyncratic sound sources (water kettle, children's toy, tin can, sagebrush prayer bowl, piano), in its themes of regeneration and journey. If there's a palpable naturalistic dimension to the recording, there should be as Ruhlmann incorporates sounds of insects—worms, flies, moths, beetles, crickets, wasps—and natural elements into the thirty-seven-minute recording. It's a collage-styled travelogue of sorts, dominated at one moment by the screech of a train pulling into a station and in the next an eavesdropped Japanese conversation. The brief, rather gamelan-like fifth part sounds like the kind of sound one might imagine could be extracted from a stone, while the seventh crackles like a seaside bonfire before exiting in a riotous sing-song flourish. Words like adventurous and unpredictable come to mind when listening to Fourteen Worms for Victor Hugo. It's obviously not “musical” in the conventional sense and it's hard to make out what it all "means" (if it does) but it certainly holds one's attention.

May 2009