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CD Feature/ Mathias Delplanque: "La Plinthe"

img  Tobias
The music of Matthias Delplanque has a deciding advantage over that of other experimental artists: It is not caught by the dilemma of having to explain itself. This may well be the crux in explaining why sonic technology might have moved on, but most listeners haven’t: Part of the dramatically triumphal procession of Pop and Rock in the second half of the 20th century (and, somewhat sadly, beyond), after all, can be attributed to its power of assimilation. It can be what you need, it can provide what you demand, it is everything want you want it to be. Aesthetics are as important as the actual music, reducing cultural debate to one simple question: Do you like it or do you hate it?

As simplistic as this tendency may be, there is also a lot to be said in favour of letting yourself be lead by your senses. Our body’s intuition acts as a primeval survival mechanism, intended to exclusively ingest what is good for us and reject the unknown as a potential danger. Along this line fo reasoning, sound art is in opposition to the thought of music as an expression of humanity. Have you ever wept to the noise of metal resonance, jumped for joy at someone scratching along the surface of a stone or kissed your lover while bathing in waves of clicks and cuts? Exactly.

It has taken some time, but a new generation of experimental musicians, respecting these demands intentionally or by instinct, is making itself heard. Delplanque is one of a few select players who stand a serious chance of reaching beyond the outer edges of a small niche. While his contribution to international trio project The Missing Ensemble may be more pronounced, almost aggressive even in its translation of inorganic sources into emotive compositions, his solo work is fueled by a personal approach capable of touching the listener in the sentive area of his heart.

If “Le Pavillon Témoin” (from previous year) sounded as though he were trying to achieve this by means of allowing acoustic instruments and hints of melody and harmony into his oeuvre, “La Plinthe” does away with these luxuries and sheds whatever notion of the old world there might have been. The real aim of this radicality is neither benevolent shock nor progress for progress’ sake, but rather attaining a sense of coherency and of interrelatedness between the album’s building blocks. In an orchestra, there is no intrinsic connection whatsoever between a piano and violin. In Delplanque’s symphonies, however, their faintly shimmering echoes are like brother and sister.

“La Plinthe” opens with crackling and sizzling noises, then settles into a rhythm of subdued explosions, which leave prismic debris in their wake before fading into the void. Instead of introducing a philosophical analysis of the relation between sound and silence, the first track serves as a sort of meditation, guiding the listener into the core of the album and shutting out uninvited outside noises. Even the glistening drone of the second part is merely a messenger, before a delayed bass and rustily breathing ambiances create the illusion of safety in an entirely alien territory.

It is here, in the middle section of the work, that Delplanque truly unpacks his talent. Comforting hiss, consoling crackles and flirring chordal fenlights are held together by the power of deep, resonating bass vibrations, as tracks settle into the groove of strangely consoling wordless Dream Dub. By locking the body in subtle movement, he is able to caress the sweetly drugged mind with brushstrokes of abstract noises. Even though the record descends into a dark cave towards the end, the grand, eight minute finale picks the listener up again, shining a path through the darkness with a majestic piece made of nothing but a stoically hit piano key over an undulating continuum of swelling hums, a warm impulse drone and the suggestion of rhythm by means of evolving patterns made from grating and gravelling timbres.

You need to like these sounds, these delicate crackles and the fireplace-metaphorics they evoke in order to enjoy the album as a whole. It is no longer possible denying their aesthetics by hiding behind a smart concept, simply because there is none. On the other hand, that is exactly why “La Plinthe” works in such a magnetic and rich way: Even though it offers a depth of structures Pop and Rock could never muster, it forces the listener to either hate or love it. Whatever your pick: Kissing your lover to a piece of sound art, no longer seems like a ridiculous thought..

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Mathias Delplanque
Homepage: Optical Sound Records

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