Full Swing: Edits
Orthlorng Musork

Originating as five 10-inch releases and drawing on originals by Laub, Kit Clayton, Antenne, Autopoieses, Ekkehard Ehlers, Monolake, Yo La Tengo, and Akira Rabelais, the ten tracks comprising Edits have been collected into a full-length 2002 release courtesy of the superb San Francisco label Orthlorng Musork. Mathieu's other recent release, frequencyLib (Mille Plateaux), is a slightly more accessible recording of 26 shorter tracks, but Edits is the deeper, more provocative work, as Mathieu transforms his source material to such a degree that at times only a tangential trace of the original remains. Paradoxically, while the Mathieu 'edit' retains a definitive connection to its host, it also severs that connection to the degree that the 'edit' exists wholly independently. In short, Mathieu's appropriation of originating fragments is so complete that he conceivably could claim sole authorship of the new pieces, in a manner similar to how John Wall uses existing fragments to construct his own compositions (hence the recordings' titles Constructions I-IV and Constructions V-VII).

In the inner sleeve, Mathieu quotes the following from Fragment 7 of Democritus's writings: “By convention there is colour, by convention sweetness, by convention bitterness, but in reality there are atoms and space.” In Democritus's Atomistic view, nothing exists except for empty space and atoms, and anything beyond that is human supposition and projection. Physical reality—including the human mind and soul—is composed of atoms which jostle, collide, and form random figures. Democritus reminds us that we habitually describe experience anthropomorphically, ascribing to external reality qualities that originate in our descriptions of the world. He also contends that sensory qualities experienced by individuals are unreal since those qualities do not appear the same to all, and thus something bitter to one may, in fact, be sweet to another. Democritus undermines conventional notions of narrativity in that the presumed connections between actions that begin and ultimately end are deconstructed to become distinct states of atomistic combinations that merely happen to be sequential. So why does Mathieu include the quote? Perhaps he wishes to emphasize that musical sound, too, is made up of momentary, mutating arrangements of atomistic elements which are capable of being reorganized ad infinitum; his approach also challenges narrative expectations that a musical piece should unfold according to conventionalized notions of development and resolution. In its place, his 'edit' eschews narrative development and, paradoxically, focuses upon a non-narrative (e.g., static) treatment extended through time.

Of course, all such ruminations are ultimately conjectural and therefore open to debate. Rather more concrete is the music itself, which exudes a crystalline shimmer of fluidity and warmth throughout. Laub's "Weit Weg" has perhaps the most recognizable source material, the song's gentle strains seeping through the textural haze of Antye Greie-Fuchs' filtered vocalizations. Ekkehard Ehlers, Mathieu's collaborator on Heroin, provides three tracks, one from Ehlers' own Betrieb release and two from the Autopoieses release La vie à noir. The latter are filled with spectral sounds of insectoid chattering, whirring frequencies, and industrial scraping. Ehlers' "Später" is quieter, its layers of percussive clicking and treble pitches draped by a blanket of hiss and warm tones. Raungestaltung Eins's "070300" becomes a stream of morse code-like transmissions, static clusters clinging to the shards of a central muffled drone. Apparently "Postcard" is taken from Monolake's gobi.the desert, although again the alteration is so extensive that the original is barely present. Interestingly, the track that seems least altered is Akira Rabelais's, perhaps because he had already transformed the Carte piano piece so radically on his own Eisoptrophobia that Mathieu deemed it best to extend the shimmering treatment rather than overhaul it. After listening to the recording, one might concede that itemizing the particular source materials for each artist is almost a superfluous gesture, given the degree of transformation imposed upon the originals; one could even go so far as to argue that identifying the original artists is unnecessary, given the extent to which Mathieu supplants their personae so indelibly with his own on these ten sublime 'edits.'

March 2003