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CD Feature/ Mathieu Ruhlmann: "Broken Vessels"

img  Tobias

Sometimes, an artist will have to go to places whence most listeners will be unwilling to follow. An idea will force itself upon him and he’ll know he will have to see it through without once even glancing at the consequences or thinking about whether anyone out there will care. Such is the case with “Broken Vessels”, one of the early works of Mathieu Ruhlmann, released in autumn of 2004 and a tryptichon of tracks which has lost nothing of its majestic extremeness .

And truly, this is an album of frightening proportions and of relentless radicalism, a monolith of sound carved into heavy stone over years, the way water slowly erodes even the most solid granitic rock on its path through time. The opening movement already seems to defy all common sense and conventions, a thirty minute-long barren gaze at a bled-out landscsape. It helps to know that Ruhlmann, who is a pivitol part of the amazingly vibrant Canadian underground, started out as a visual artist in search of accompanying sounds and that “Broken Vessels” was inspired by Anselm Kiefer’s leaps from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional in general and an old bathtub filled with iron rods in particular. This certainly is music in search of an image, be it on paper, canvas or the projection plains of the mind. On the surface, there is nothing more than a seething grumble from the deep, shreds of see-through drones scanning the darkness like flouorescent fishes ten miles below and myriads of microscopic sound events being born and dying off at every moment and dispersed into all corners of the aural spectrum. Ruhlmann went into the harbour for suitable sampling sources and he has returned with the noises of ships, metal against metal, machines and men, ore going down a shute and waves breaking on the harbour wall, only to distort them beyond recognisability in the composing process. These unnaturally organic recordings populate the moors and swamps of the music like insects swarming a prehistoric everglade and it is them who are at the core of these three tracks, not the greyish harmonic static breathing underneath. Which means that measured in terms of traditional Western music, there is next to nothing going on here and “Broken Vessels” leaves merely an ephemeral impression when listened to in the background. It is only on closer inspection, that it reveals its power, forces its audience to look into its depths, deal with its impact and to discern the subtle differences between its three different parts.

There is a good chance that many people will not want to wait for that to happen, that they will find this too dark, too long, too same-ish, too monochromatic or even outright boring. All of which is even true in a sense. But at the same time, the unrelenting vastness of this vision develops a irresistible pull, forcing the receptive ear to return and to slowly understand, just like it pulled in Mathieu Ruhlmann, forcing him to stay true to the purity of his idea against all odds and prejudice.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Mathieu Ruhlmann
Homepage: Mathieu Ruhlmann at MySpace
Homepage: Mystery Sea Records

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