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Mathieu Ruhlmann - This Star Teaches Bending [3LEAVES - 2013]

"This Star Teaches Bending" is a manipulated field recording release that’s themed around incurable diseases. And it takes influence from both the sound recordists personal experience (his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer), and that of Expressionistic & cubism Swedish artists  Paul Klee- who died in 1879 from the rare skin disease scleroderma.

Mathieu Ruhlmann is a Canadian visual and sound artists, who has been releasing work on various European, Canadian and US labels since 2004. He first began composing sound works to accompany his visual art based on found material, and has gone onto produced sound installations and held performances through-out North America. "This Star Teaches Bending" is his second release on  3 Leaves, after “'Anáádiih'”- a collaborative release he did in 2011 with Tucson, Arizona based sound artists Banks Bailey.


In 2012, at the age of 63, Ruhlmann mother(Valerie Joy) was diagnosed with a rare form terminal lung disease. She was given  six-months to live. This release conists of  tracks that utilize the environments, equipment & devices used in the treatment of  his mother illness.  In all the album lasts just under 36 minutes, and is broken up into five tracks that each last between just under six minutes mark to just over the ten minute mark.

The release comes with a 12 page booklet, and this features microscopic slide pictures, a picture of Valerie Joy in her younger days, a brief write-up about the themes behind the releases, and lastly a list of sound elements used for each track. The sound recordings go from the clinical, rather grim & at times down right odd/ unrelated. They take in the sounds of: Oxygen tank, rubber gloves, compressed air, a Racoon(?!), Amplified stomach fasting,  hospital room lights, electronic heart rate monitor, respirator, and hospital car park.

Ruhlmann arranges the sounds in mainly a fairly stripped-down(with quite often one field recording appearing at a time), some-times jarring, but mostly seemingly random manner. And I’m afraid to say most of it left me rather cold & literally bored- sure from time to time more effective & memorable sounds appear like the stark flicker of the hospital lights, but these don’t last long & we are soon returned to a selection of smaller scratching, breathing or hissing sounds that take up the majority of this release.

There’s no doubt that "This Star Teaches Bending" has an interesting/original if rather grim concept behind it, but sadly the sonic elements & Ruhlmann's ability to arrange them is very much lacking.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Roger Batty
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