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Stephan Mathieu - On Tape

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Artist: Stephan Mathieu

Album: On Tape

Label: Hapna

Review date: Jan. 12, 2005

The Swedish electro-acoustic trio Tape don’t seem to believe in leaving well enough alone. Their first album Opera was recently the subject of Operette, an album on cubicfabric that featured remixes, reconstructions and reprocessings by the likes of Pita, David Grubbs and Hazard.

Now comes this CD by Stephan Mathieu, a German who made the transition from improvising drummer to electronic processor of acoustic sound sources in the late 1990s. Mathieu had already worked his customary digital magic on Operette, so he decided to go old-school for On Tape. The 32-minute piece, which combines real-time performance with prepared material, was recorded at a concert in Stockholm. Mathieu crafted the musical foundation from recordings given to him by Tape, which he then processed using “classic editing techniques.” It’s probably not completely non-digital — there’s a fair amount of looping involved — but the sounds remain true to their sources.

Nonetheless, Mathieu exerts a strong hand on the raw material; out go the acoustic guitars and pretty melodies that glue Tape’s compositions together in favor of close-ups on bell tones, birdsongs, childish banter and a bleating harmonium. The elements all comfortably inhabit a narrow tonal range, the better to redirect attention to the light timbres and summery ambience. The live accompaniment is quite restrained; saxophonist Magnus Granberg adds long-held pitches and breathy whispers, while Mathieu returns to his first love, percussion, to accent the recorded material with sparsely applied drumbeats and resonant metallic reports.

By Bill Meyer

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