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CD Feature/ Lena: "The Uncertain Trail"

img  Tobias

“Ach zwei Seelen wohnen in meiner Brust”, Faust exclaimed in the Goethe play named after him, complaining about the two-sided nature of his personality. Mathias Delplanque could probably relate. In his releases as a member of the “Missing Ensemble” and in his work as a solo artist, which has been featured in museums and installations worldwide, he has established a reputation as a musician with an open sense for creative experimentation and a talent for building demanding drones. With his project Lena, which celebrates its fifth aniversary this year, however, he is off into entirely different territory: Dub is the keyword here and the mood is warm and inviting. Is this Delplanque’s popular valve to release the tension from stretching art to its limits?

What people often forget when they are enveloped by the deep, sonorous bass lines and softly echoing guitar splinters of Dub is that this was once the most progressive music imagineable and has remained at the forefront through its subsequent reincarnations in some click n cuts-offshoots and drum n bass. Delplanque is aware of this legacy and in his understanding, dub is not just a slower or skeletised version of Reggae, but a technique of stripping music of all of its irrelevant parameters and replacing harmony and melody with more sound-oriented components, such as reverb and delay. His aesthetical proximity to the Berlin-based ~scape label, which was the navel of the world for a short, but intense summer a few years ago, has been somewhat exagerated, but you hardly need a course in history to understand these comparisons after the first few seconds of the “Entomodub 1” remix which opens “The Uncertain Trail”: Magnetic cracklings, sizzlings and crunchings are alligned by a sluggish tractor beam groove and what would usually be a background effect aimed at proving more depth now takes centerstage to push the piece forward. On the other hand, Lena does not end there and this album is really to be understood as the diary and travel log of a man who has made the highway his home. Compiled over years spent in France, Canada, the USA and India, it brims with the tension of different ethnicities peacefully running into each other on crowded market places, dances to an accordion played on the corners of Paris and jumps up at the shreeks of a mobile phone ringing in Bombay. And yet, Delplanque cares less for using locally recorded samples, but for amalgamating everything into flickering street scenes: There is a universal urban coolness, which runs through all of these tracks and which is reflected by the purity of Ed Ruscha’s painting, which graces the album’s cover.

Despite its more accessible surface, “The Uncertain Trail” is never in opposition to Delplanque’s experimental work. Drones and flowing layers of electric particles are omnipresent and “Nizamuddin Station” even uses extracts from a collaboration with David Sanson performed at the “Musee Juste pour Rire” in Montreal. Rather than his soul being torn in two, Mathias Delplanque has constructed Lena as an ideal vehicle to complement his sound art and to express his personality in full.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Lena/Mathias Delplanque
Homepage: Soundsaround Records

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