Electro-acoustic maestro and noted mastering engineer Stephen Mathieu commits a decade of spellbinding work to ‘Radiance’, collecting 12 album length discs (total: almost 13 hours!) revolving around the concept of stasis, the unfolding of time and sustained frequencies, deep listening, and immersive soundscapes. We've barely touched the sides with this one but, boy, it's a compelling, deeply immersive ride...
Completing Mathieu’s most significant cycle of work in his twenty year oeuvre, ‘Radiance’ operates in a push and pull of reflection and absorption, using heat and light as metaphors for the synaesthetic qualities of sound, and how it is perceived by the listener not just thru ears. The title itself ‘Radiance’ also connotes a vast scale of timelessness, but also one prone to fade away, decay, and its from these polysemous readings that Mathieu draws a remarkable spectrum of interrelated yet variegated compositions.
As ever, Mathieu is effectively dealing with the metaphysics of sound, using an array of electronics and electronic processes to divine new life in old instruments and samples, getting right down to their grain and accentuating their normally imperceptible peculiarities and latent spirits. In a sense he’s tactfully highlighting the lustre of his sounds, brining out their unique qualities for the ear to feel.That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all shiny and seductive. Rather, the pieces’ textures range from blingy to coruscating and every integer inbetween, sharing a feel for and fascination with the infidelity of acoustic, mechanical, and electronic sounds perhaps only comparable with the likes of previous collaborators, Akira Rabelais and the GRM’s Kassel Jaeger, or Leyland Kirby, for example, within the contemporary field.
All 12 albums in the set were individually a year or so in the making, and thusly require patient, committed listening for full comprehension The time we've spent with it so far is enlightening, rendering truly sublime passages and moments in the multi-timbral shimmer of ‘Sea Song I’, and likewise in the tantalising, prickly haze of ‘The Answer VII’’, while the longer pieces naturally give broader room for his ideas to grow, and beautifully so in the likes of his heavy-lidded and keening drone panorama ‘First Consort’, while ‘To Have Elements Exist In Space (GRM Version)’ patiently and exquisitely evokes a state of weightlessness, and, at its longest, the hour long breadth of ‘Feldman’ operates with deeply uncanny, surface level tonal reflections, which, as glib as it may read, recalls to us the magick of looking out a bus window at night, where the internal reflections and external street lights create refractive, illusory dimensions to get totally lost in.
The slow gaze is key to this amazing suite, as it purposefully pulls away from the time-constricted demands of contemporary music consumption to offer a wide, open space where time moves differently and perceptions are readjusted, becoming malleable in the process. It’s not quick fix music, but when applied properly, the results endure.