Radiance by Stephan Mathieu

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Stephan Mathieu
Radiance (Schwebung; CDx12; DL)

Special to Toneshift.net: Review by Darren McClure

The Radiance series began with a crowd-funded request by its creator, Stephan Mathieu, the best part of two years ago. From that point, 12 installments were released digitally on a semi-regular basis, and the physical edition has been released this month. 12 CDs housed in a beautifully designed boxset trace Mathieu’s interest in slow-motion drones and electroacoustic atmospheres, each exploring different recording techniques.

Sound sources include gramophone 78s, singing bowls, gongs and harpsichord. Elsewhere, entropic systems for piano and loudspeakers feature on one disc, and a similar system for percussion and strings on another. This extensive palette of sounds provides a broad range of listening, each part of the set delivering either long-form tracks that take up the entire disc, or shorter, yet equally immersive material.

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Mathieu welcomes a host of peers throughout the series to contribute and collaborate, including France Jobin and Caro Mikalef, and this openness provides further scope to an already deep listening experience.

With this amount of material, essentially 12 hours worth, it’s good to provide pointers to standout pieces. These would include Alap for Steel Needle, Record and Theorbe, which plunges the listener into 40 minutes of blissed-out drones that are at once static and ever moving. For Franz Wright is an edited live recording that recalls Mathieu’s Radioland album, in which he processes shortwave radio into infinite lines of drift, but this is quite a few shades darker than that 2009 release, incorporating Farfisa piano and phonoharp. Feldman is another piece with a title dedicating itself to one of Mathieu’s influences. It’s a recording of a commission celebrating Morton Feldman’s 90th birthday. The twelfth and final part of the series, Pacific, is a sustained 50 minute piece that veers off course conceptually. According to the CD’s liner notes, “while most of the Radiance pieces were shaped by the spaces in which they were recorded, the coda to the series reflects the basic mechanism of hearing”. Recordings of a Farfisa piano were achieved via a contact-mic’d gong, which captures a rattling resonance and gives your speakers a run for their money.

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After a long career of experimental music, Radiance feels like Stephan Mathieu’s crowning achievement to date. The sheer amount of material will find the listener taking time with this release, slowly, patiently, just like the music itself.

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