May 1, 2003
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Soft Pink Truth
The Wind-Up Bird
April 30, 2003
Pale Horse and Rider
Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers
April 29, 2003
Set Fire to Flames
I had a strange revelation this past Friday evening. I had just finished DJing at a warehouse party, throwing down an unusual mix of 2CB records and minimal techno, and enjoying myself in the mass of sweaty bodies, when I lit a spliff with the promoter and talked politics. And while we were debating the merits of Negri and Hardt’s Marxist tome of global imperalism—Empire –one of Vancouver’s (not so) infamous progressive DJs, Kevin Shui, came on the decks. I was expecting cheese. But, to my techno-centric surprise, I really liked the first few tracks. They were…deep / house / trance ? Deep and booming, and incredibly emotional, filled with slight melodrama and deep sorrows that eventually came around to emotional highs, the music caught me off guard and the next minute I found myself entranced and jiving away on the dancefloor. In my stoned reverie, I felt at one with both the hazy memories of my past raving days and, oddly, Simon Reynolds. For Reynolds always defended trance for its emotional signatures—perhaps too much so, in my opinion, and as Shiu went off into rising-synth-trance-land-with-big-breakdowns I quickly lost interest in the predictable song structures and turned back to Marx. But I was intrigued.
None of the above has anything really to do with Mathieu’s recent album in a direct sense. But when I put it on today, I felt the same pangs of emotion. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I am moving to Montreal from my beloved Vancouver. Perhaps I am in post-weekend recovery mode. But now, at this moment, I am not stoned, nor tired, and it is a Sunday afternoon and the music is speaking to me clearly. By comparison, yesterday my cousin decided to blast a mix cd from Sasha and Digweed, and although some of the tracks were similar to Shiu’s, I was not captivated. The music only worked for me at that one, stoned moment in that warehouse. And now, to these ears, it is Mathieu’s remix project that not only captivates but builds contemporary melancholic memories for me to experience in blissful Proustian reverie 20 years later, when I eventually get around to reflecting on this move in a horrible self-tortured paranoid pot trip, one of those dark and introspective trips where you cannot even get out of your chair and your mind splays your meager consciousness across the expanse of the universe.
Mathieu’s remix project is like that—darkly intense, melancholic post-everything vibes, and he’s got excellent material to draw from: Kit Clayton, Laub, Akira Rabelais, Antenne, Monolake, Autopoeises, and Yo La Tengo. Unlike most remixes, each track is treated beyond a simple representation or repetition of its original. This is as much an album of Mathieu’s music as it is a “remix” CD. Take the “edit” of Laub’s “weit weg;” although the original elements are present—guitar, vocals—the arrangement is morphed and retranslated through resampling, thereby carefully rearranging the track as well as processing the sounds. Fragile click-pops form a delicate percussion that trickle above the muted and distorted vocal, eventually giving way to rolling sinewaves that quietly end the piece, much the same way it began, when granular clouds rose from the deep to introduce the guitar-rhythm, only to fade into nothingness (and before the granular motif became overdetermined). Much the same can be said for the “edit” of Kit Clayton’s “~”. Although similar in emotional palette—melancholy forms a string of continuity across the album—the “edit” is in many respects very different. Clayton’s distinctive dub-chords are transmogrified into sonar pings that bounce deep in an ocean of synth wash, and the track carefully moves through successive stages of this exploration before ending on a drawn-out fade-out of the last note.
Each “edit” displays a careful attention to detail and to the original’s motifs—which are not prominently displayed like a glaring neon signifier but translated and submerged through Mathieu’s deeply personal emotion-filter, leaving a husk of rainy tears that gently guide the remix’s potential to blue horizons and stormy lakes .
This album is an ocean of ambience and texture punctuated by the remains that tell a story and beckon at a mystery and leave us imagining the past. Jagged ruins, stone streets of Roman frontier towns swarming with lichen and growing tourists; and yet who to tell if we grow or swarm this album with our interpretative ears? Slowly, the album proceeds, delicately, metaphorical lichen; administering the gaze, taking the photo, capturing the moment and the presence of myself in this moment, Mathieu and I as the listener are tourists on this foreign soil—and Mathieu has a shovel and has begun to dig.
(To bury memories in the ground and body of another).
Each track bears the signature of its artist—the singing sinewaves of Rabelais, the movement of Monolake—that renders itself irreducible to representation. And by this I mean by either language or what we call a “remix” at its potential limit. For a remix in this case—always, in this “case,” this singularity—is an erasure of that signature, an effacement of the original with the remixer’s signature, Mathieu in Rabelias, Stephen in Joshua; yet this effacement always leaves, and is always followed by and preceded by (“which amounts to the same thing”) a trace of the architectonic, the idiom and its ground. The moment of poiesis is that which, and through the remix, escapes—and in its escape, leaves a partial signature signed by neither Mathieu nor the artist under re-mix. It is perhaps a strange body split. “The pictures are cut down the divide line of the body and fitted to other pictures of prospective partners—For example two boys fucking in front of a cubicle screen can see their pictures developed after a few seconds and permutated with other sex acts in other cubicles half one half the other shifting back and forth and speed-up slow-down line cutting the two halves apart to neon—through the open window trailing other pictures” (William S. Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded). The sweat of the body in the signature that moves in poly-directions: the body is displaced into a thousand acts of aural signing. Mathieu submits himself to Joshua and Joshua takes it from Rabelais, Monolake sees Mathieu but gets Laub, who are caught up with Antenne and etc. In each repetition of the remix the anterior affects what is supposedly interior to the remix. (And not just on either side, to each side of the track under scrutiny, but all “remixes” on the CD and the permutations of the 10”s, all the out-takes not heard and mixes not put to mastering, all the attempts and sound files archived or destroyed, the memories of sounds not actually present that affect the current re- and de-composition of the tracks involved). In each repetition of remix-policy, of the application of the genre-form which in itself is neither strictly genre nor form for it too submits itself, always, to the repetition and difference of its tangents, the signature and the sound of its signing is haunted by the echo of every other permutation, of the documented and archived image of the other artists. The overwhelming themeatic of these encounters—numerous, unspeakable and interminable—is melancholic, and my response, the only response I can make at this moment and in this context, is one of mourning.
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