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Mathias Delplanque - Chutes [Baskaru - 2013]

Mathias Delplanque is an artist who made his debut in 2006, and released several full lengths since then as well as a number of single tracks.  The music found on his new album "Chutes" is a sort of loosely organized ambient flotsam of liquid metallic instrumental timbres, often skipped, warped, or blurred into reverberant soup.  Pondering that it was (according to the liner notes) improvised in real time, it starts to sound like some kind of lethargic, electronically augmented freeform lounge jazz.

All the playing could be described as indecisive, ethereal noodling: any rhythmic structure, chord or melodic phrase dissolves before it is even fully hinted at.  The sound seems to be intentionally fleeting and fragmented, collage-like, composed of so many second long sighs and eruptions.  As a result, it never rises above being a sonic blob, generally of a consistent density and feeling.  Most of the intervals frequently sounded fall in a minor key tonal spectrum, and a somber, contemplative air is maintained.

There are a lot of nice textures, and immersive panning / spacialization.  In a similar fashion to artists like Ikue Mori or Vladislav Delay, generative, whimsically arrhythmic distortions of beats swirl unpredictably like the occasional breeze, though never with an aggressive or decisively percussive nature.  All sounds are smoothed into a pleasant, gradually drifting fluidity which makes the album easy low volume background listening.  This, and the crystalline, complimentary harmonized of the carefully chosen array of instruments (bells, e-bowed guitar, metallophone, kalimba, etc.) are the strong points of "Chutes".   Aimlessness and unengaging sameness are its weaknesses.

The artwork is boring.  A flat grey, with indistinct ink smear in the middle: not empty enough or full enough to be communicative or interesting.  The back cover and booklets are nothing more than the flat grey, sloppily textured to look vaguely stonelike.

"Alo", the closer, is the best track.  This track has more edge and personality, with deep, rich bowed tones from a cello or string bass, and a prominent crackle of filtered rustling with a special crispness.

In conclusion, there's nothing too wrong with "Chutes", but it failed to make a strong impression on me.  Fitting autumnal ambient music, to be sure, but not one I'll likely return to often.  The energy level is very low, and while I don't mind very minimal or completely motionless ambient albums in the slightest, I'm not a fan of overly somber and depressive dwells, and this seems clouded and lacking the balance / spirituality of my favorite ambient composers.  Mathias Delplanque may be capable of creating an album I would find memorable, but he would need to approach the music with more direction and focus, and a greater diversity of approaches.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Josh Landry
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