Stephan Mathieu - The Falling Rocket [Dekorder - 2013]
Prolific German sound artist Stephan Mathieu's newest release, The Falling Rocket, comes in a nice 2xLP gatefold via Dekorder. For this release, Stephan used a Farfisa VIP 233 organ, a mechanical gramophone, a Hohner Electronium, and a radio. The performing was all done in real time, which is quite a feat considering how densely layered the songs on The Falling Rocket are. What we're given is a solid 80+ minutes of spacey, electroacoustic drone.
After reading the press release, I couldn't get "Farfisa Beat" by Squeeze out of my head. The Falling Rocket is nothing like that. Stephan works in dense layers of drones. There is a definite ebb and flow to the frequencies of the layers that keeps the listener from getting burnt out on one range of notes. Most of the album deals with the lower to medium notes but never feels creepy or haunting. Much like the songs and album title suggest, The Falling Rocket is very spacey. A look at the track listing makes one feel like David Bowman ("My God, it's full of stars!"). "IK Pegasi" plays with a slowly growing, rising drone and feels like a sonic sunrise on an alien planet. Similarly, "Lacaille 8760" suggests a windy, desert morning, whether on Earth or beyond. The layers are thick and full of sound. A low, distant, reverbed drone starts "Cha 110913," before coming closer, higher and thicker. This eventually fades out to the same sound from the beginning. Whether intentional or not, this planetary flyby is like Mathieu's nod to the Doppler Effect and its use in star hunting. An interesting layer of bowed instruments comes into play on "Deneb." The bowed highs make a nice contrast to the low drone that is the majority of the sound. The album, although thick and varied (tonally), remains fairly soft and contemplative, with the exception of "Teide 1." This one is heavy, thick, and low with some nice, subtle crunch. It's the roughest number on here, and probably my favorite.
The Falling Rocket is long, but never feels that way. The layers presented float and move enough to be interesting and not so much that they're chaotic. It sounds like a lot of time was spent on this recording, and an adequate amount of time should be set aside for enjoying it. Put it on, dig out your Millenium Falcon, pretend you're inside playing Holochess, and watch the stars and planets cruise by.