RADIANCE II – Music for the Answer – A closer Listen

Music for The Answer Postcard


RADIANCE II Music for the Answer | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | June 2016

The subscription series is an idea that has gained traction in recent years.  With two popular series just ending (from Justin Small and William Ryan Fritch), we’re happy to introduce a brand new one: Stephan Mathieu‘s 12-part RADIANCE.  This series of monthly album releases will culminate in a limited box set that consumers can enjoy piece-by-piece as it is released.  Mathieu calls this a single “growing album” that invites “slow listening”, which is just beautiful.  We liken the opening timbres and overall concept to last year’s conceptual Sleep, the major difference being that Max Richter’s album was released all at once.

While listening to Alap for Steel Needle, Record and Theorbe, one can already sense the radiance.  These drones, punctuated by occasional plucks, shimmer like heat puddles, now-here, now-absent, seeming to fluctuate while staying in one place.  This opening salvo of the series is an effective prelude in that it establishes the level of quality without giving much away.  But what is a theorbe, one might ask?  We’ll do the Wikiwork for you: it’s a long-necked lute instrument with bass strings, primarily used in 17th and 18th century music.  This knowledge is the entry point to the album, recorded with lutist Peter Söderberg.  One might consider it the reflection of a smudge of a skeleton: a group of pitches re-recorded and looped from an early recording by Arnold Dolmetsch, interacting with live acoustics.  The plucks reappear at the end, setting up the bonus material: a two-minute classical segment and a 40-minute tape loop, the innards of the body.

The second installment, Music is the Answer, is the score to Cedric Eymenier’s film The Answer.  This time around, Mathieu teams up with France Jobin, the two offering alternating tracks that together form a whole.  (The only oddity: the sequencing of pieces out of numerical order.)  Two of Jobin’s contributions continue the dronelike theme of Alap, with additional harmonic variation; the other two dredge bell tones to the surface like echoes from a drowned church.  “The Answer VII” is the more restrained of this pair, with static loops acting as light waves.  Play “The Answer V” next, and one will hear the volume of the bells rise, as if breaking the barrier between water and air.  Electronic pings join the sonic field mid-piece, surrendering to a tonal smear by the finale.  Mathieu responds with three segments of “Sea Song” (I, IV and V), allowing for a great range of measured motion, especially in the organ-toned first.  The trailer (seen below) puts it all together; the film, a meditation on travel, has found the perfect score.

Where will RADIANCE head next?  The list of upcoming releases includes a number of intriguing titles, including albums inspired by Hieronymous Bosch, Franz Wright, Kepler and the movie Vampyr, and instruments ranging from gramophones to shortwave radios.  We’ll be keeping a close ear on this series, and we’re already looking forward to the next installment!  (Richard Allen)

review – singulum – LINE_075 – 2016 – a closer listen



LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Like a sluggish mummification process, the light and creamy textures of Singulum are gently wrapped around the body, embalming the slowly developing ambient music. On Singulum, Montreal sound artist France Jobin gently nudges her music forward, and it’s so hushed it’s hardly there at all; it’s an incredibly subtle approach.

Inspired by quantum physics, Jobin uses a series of quiet field recordings that are in turn manipulated, processed and lightly looped, the latter enjoying a healthy, liberal amount of space and freedom (an open loop, if there is such a thing), her modular synthesizers rearranging and transforming the music beyond all recognition. Science, sound and music are inextricably linked, so close as to resemble sons and daughters. They are elegant, despite the stuttering glitches that occasionally pass by. Reshaping both the timbre and the tonal quality of the original recording results in an entirely new entity being created.

Shapes inside the music are gently rearranged, changing beyond recognition but never entering their final state of being. As Jobin says, ‘Singulum represents an unobtainable goal, the process of decay while conserving a continuation of information’. Slowly shifting, and almost meditative in its breathing, the music is a secret ocean of calm. As soon as the pale, soft tonal intakes are taken, the exhalation of the music is the only thing that can follow. The non-intrusive sound of a bass frequency passes through, feeling heavy and yet somehow light, stuck in its black ice, and the lighter tones suddenly disperse, vanishing without a trace.

Singulum’s music is filled with a special kind of light. Translucent notes ghost around the music. And like a good friend, a lower bass accompanies the transparent ambient lines as they continue their journey. If you wanted to be technical, I guess you could call it microscopic ambient minimalism. To an extent, you need to concentrate to pick everything up; the ambient music flows easily and, on the surface at least, it holds a good deal of simplicity. But belying that simplicity is an all-consuming intelligence. After all, this is not an easy thing to produce – far from it. It’s easy to access and goes down nicely, but you can go deeper and deeper, too. In that sense, the listener can make it a challenging listen if he / she chooses to, and it’s a pleasurable record no matter how you decide to approach it. Everything falls into place at just the right time, and that’s not a coincidence. It may have been inspired by and rooted in science, but the slightly metallic drones are mystical, too. Like the pyramidal structures that lie inside Area 51, surrounded by nothing but a clear lake and the arid Nevada desert, they have a mask of the unknown hovering around them. Trance-like, the music progresses slowly. A soft hiss of static kisses the music as it travels along, keeping it steady. As the record draws to a close, a soft, glowing chord pulses at regular intervals. This being a LINE release, a pair of headphones is not only recommended but essential.

(James Catchpole)