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stephan mathieu - Radioland
*ONE OF THE VERY BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR - FINALLY AVAILABLE FOR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD* In recent years Stephan Mathieu has composed some of the very finest examples of what the microsound movement has to offer: most recently 2006's Hidden Name (Cronica) with Janek Schaefer, and before that 2004's Pieces Of Winter (Sirr) with John Hudak. Until now, the release of The Sad Mac on Japanese imprint Headz was the most recent solo recording from Mathieu, and deservingly, it found him a good deal of acclaim in the press, but Radioland sounds like a real step up for the composer and is without question one of the most beautiful albums you'll see and hear in 2008. The album takes shortwave radio signals as its starting point, meaning Mathieu instantly invites comparisons with Tod Dockstader and William Basinski, but while there's often a grainy, hazed over murk to those works, Mathieu somehow brings a luminosity and brightness out of his sources. The opening trilogy of pieces (each named after an archangel) makes for an utterly absorbing half-hour sequence, each composition spanning an immersive ten minutes of analogue-mastered, carefully processed signals. To some of the less ardent drone disciples out there, it might be difficult to accept that certain records ascribing to that format can be radically better than others, but Radioland really is. The detail, subtlety and physicality of this music transcends the norm by quite some measure, with the most involved, elaborate pieces sounding positively symphonic. Further to that, a special mention should be given to the presentation of this album: it comes in a beautiful, oversized plexiglass case with an acetate foldout cover, and the CD itself is transparent - I don't really understand what devilry makes that possible but apparently it is. In any case, this is a thing of luxurious, opulence and beauty, but doesn't nearly match the effervescent brilliance of the music it houses. Brought to you with the highest possible recommendation - "Radioland" is a real treasure that should not be missed.