Stephan Mathieu, Radboud Mens, Janek Schaefer, Timeblind | Quality Hotel


The second in a series of live recordings produced during Montreal's MUTEK Festival, 'Quality Hotel' features the combined talents of Stephan Mathieu, Radboud Mens, Janek Schaefer and Timeblind flexing their sonic muscles on the final day of MUTEK 2002. Recorded in Mens' hotel room, the scene was a solid mass of cabling, linking four artists - umbilical-like - as they coaxed their machines to life, gently easing sound into the hot atmosphere of a sunny June morning.

Listening to 'Quality Hotel' brings back fond memories of warm summer days in Montreal; friends meeting and exchanging ideas freely; music trickling from laptops into an overworked mixing desk; Schaefer manipulating his twin-armed turntable whilst simultaneously adjusting settings; all the while Chris (Timeblind) Sattinger struggling to get his recalcitrant laptop to co-operate...

The result: seven tracks of warm melodies occasionally surfacing above a sea of hesitant and gentle static. A beautiful balance of four talents all trying to focus while I stumbled around the room photographing the process with a series of borrowed cameras (while suffering from a festival's worth of sleepless nights).

The tracks - numbered after the hotel's floors - are a series of calm meditations, a suite of crystalline studies which unfurl gently, bearing all the characteristics of the different artists' trademark sounds and differing sensibilities. A perfect balance, the result of a rich improvisatory dialogue.

After a gentle opening 'Fourth Floor' sees staccato pulses emerge from a gently wielding hiss. Hover. Slightly. Then fade to the machine hum of 'Seventh Floor', a growing chord - stretched, infinite - punctuated by low end grumble and shimmering pulses. By 'Ninth Floor' we're in full flow, elegiac chords drifting momentarily before collapsing into an ocean of sibilance - old vinyl at its glorious best.

The closing track, 'Eighteenth Floor', sees a far off melody escaping (presumably from Schaefer's turntables) as the others massage a spacious digital landscape from pulses and glitches. Fitting that the closing track is the longest, its sixteen minutes easing gently out to create a void, silently embracing. Leaving behind a sea of memories.

At forty-eight generous minutes, Mathieu, Mens, Schaefer and Timeblind coax their machines into a beautiful display of restraint and mutual respect. Perhaps it's the tiredness brought on after such a well-organised and well-enjoyed festival, but the results are spectacular, fondly recalled and, one hopes, not the last of these spontaneous hotel room encounters.


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