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CD Feature/ Mathias Delplanque: "Ma chambre quand je n'y suis pas (Montreal)"

img  Tobias

I am, again and again, fascinated by the fact how art (be it film, literature, paintings or music) can bring thoughts to the fore which had been lingering on my mind, unable to make it through the brain-barrier for some particular reason. Take this release by Burkina Faso-born French composer Mathias Delplanque, whose body of work oscillates between the sweetly humming bass lines of atmospheric Dub and the humming sweetness of deep Ambient. On this occasion, he tends towards the latter with an album dealing with a set of simple questions What would his room sound like, if he wasn’t there? In which way does his mere absence change the room’s aural parameters? And, on a more general level, of course: Can spacial qualities be put to tape at all? As “Ma chambre quand je n’y suis pas” prooves, they can and with some astounding results to boot.

From July to December of 2004, Delplanque lived and worked in Montreal, being part of the “Les Inclassables” program kindly set up by two of Quebec’s most important art-sponsorship organisations. During this time, the music to this disc slowly took shape, culminating in a sound installation at the “Studio Cormier”. That very location also served as the only source of material to be used for the composition. During the most quiet moments of the day, Mathias would set up a network of microphones in the Studio, then clear the place of human presence and simply start recording. The results were naturally close to the threshold of audibility, but thanks to the use of a little amplification and frequency enhancement (stressing the extreme ends of the spectrum), suddenly a microcosm of intense richness opened up: Hissing and sanding noises, choral drones, poundings and digital cuts and thumps, washes of long-drawn sighs and glistening bell-like tone-drops blended into a heaving and breathing painting of 45 minutes duration. There are very much “sound”-related elements, which take on “musical” importance (such as the recurring theme of a mysterious creaking, as from the planks of a ghost ship sailing foggy waters on a windless day), while “musical” motives, like minuscule melodies and harmonic chord clusters are accorded the function of colouring the room between the lines. The basic building blocks of the piece stay intact for its entire length, only their relation to each other changes constantly, as do their volume and the intervals between their occurences, lending an effective flow to an otherwhise peacefully rocking track. There are two distinct semblances, peaks of some sort, with the crackling suddenly takes on rhythmical qualities on one occasion and a short moment of total rest, with the music revelling in absolute tranquility after a long period of gradually slowing down. But the warm embrace of “Ma Chambre” always returns. At first, I thought the opening to be a little unsettling and disturbing and believed the piece to become brighter, more friendly and warmer in its course. As it turns out, this is an illusion and its great strength: Just like with a good book, you first have to tune in to the work, before feeling at home.

If you really think about it, Delplanque has of course not truly captured the essence of his idea. The mere us of amplification changes the nature of the experiment and by allowing visitors to walk through the sound installation, the inavoidable paradoxon of a room full of people listening to a room void of anyone rears its head. So, “Ma chambre quand je n’y suis pas” is less about recording absolute silence, than about exposing the sounds behind it and the musical qualities of emptiness, as well as substantiating thoughts, images and a fantasies on the matter and bringing them out into consciousness. In the end, we all have to find the answers to our questions ourselves anyway: I may still not know what my room sounds like when I’m not there, but at least now I know how to start the search.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Mathias Delplanque
Homepage: Mondes Elliptiques

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