Stephan Mathieu | 31 Transcriptions
Bitsteam | MP3
Stephan Mathieu's considerable reputation as a quiet, yet formidable force within the field of contemporary electronic music is unquestioned. His consistent releases spanning a variety of genres defy easy classification, fusing an elecltic sensibility with careful attention to detail.
As 2007 drew to a close Mathieu stated in an email to friends: "Over the next four weeks I will post a series of 31 recordings of some of my favourite 78 RPM platters.
"Gospel, early and classical music, hillbilly, jazz, jube, pre-war pop, mainly acoustic or very early electrical recordings from the late 1910s to the very early 30s - beloved music I want to share with you. The records are played back on a mechanical 1927 HMV 101 gramophone and recorded with a Schoeps microphone, as is, without EQ treatments."
As an archive of inspiration '31 Transcriptions' ranks alongside other great anthologies - Harry Smith's expansive 'Anthology of American Folk Music', Sub Rosa's excellent 'Anthology Of Noise And Electronic Music' - what sets this compilation apart, however, is its eclectic breadth and scope coupled with its lovingly crafted transcriptions from analogue to digital.
From the reverent blues of Blind Willie Johnson's 'Jesus Is Coming Soon' shrouded in a sublime canopy of dust to the early version of 'Caravan' by Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra to the intricate trills of Throstles captured in 'Songs of Wild Birds', '31 Transcriptions' traces a fascinating path through Mathieu's varied inspirations.
In 'Unpacking my Library' Walter Benjamin writes that "[A collection does not] come alive in him; it is he who lives in [it]". A collection, its myriad references and idiosyncracies, paints a portrait of its owner. '31 Transcriptions' proves this beyond the shadow of a doubt. A collection yes, but more: an accumulation of influences, a portrait of Mathieu as an artist.
One can hope that Mathieu - noted for his generosity - might package up these recordings for release once more. They paint a remarkable portrait of both man and music.
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