Stephan Mathieu | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Stephan Mathieu 

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German composer, improviser, and multi-instrumentalist Stephan Mathieu had a knack for generating campfirelike warmth from digital crackles on his early records, as well as on the remixes he made under the moniker Full Swing. But on his two most recent discs, his most ingratiating to date, he successfully incorporates analog methods. Last year's On Tape (Hapna) is an honest-to-goodness live album, on which Mathieu's restrained, abstract drumming and Magnus Granberg's painterly saxophone playing merge with edits of recordings given to Mathieu by the Swedish electroacoustic trio Tape. He drastically rearranged Tape's sounds, but instead of atomizing them through digital processing he used low-tech cut-and-paste methods. Persistent computer problems drove him to rely even more on old-school techniques for his latest album, The Sad Mac (Headz). The opener, "Anakrousis," is a ten-second blast of the ultradense noise that's become a digital-music cliche now that every aspiring laptop jockey has Max/MSP, but Mathieu made the track by blending music from Jacques Tati movies with sounds from the operating system of the Apple Lisa, a Macintosh precursor. On one version of "Tinfoil Star" he mixes recordings of birdsong with Roswitha Thierie's viola and the "chimes of death" from a Mac Classic II; for the second version Aleksandr Kolkowski played the piece using a Stroh viola (an antique instrument with a built-in amplification horn) and Mathieu rerecorded it to a wax cylinder. "Radioland," the piece he'll debut for his first Chicago performance, is another blend of old and new technologies: he'll process real-time shortwave radio signals with a computer. Sat 11/19, 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 773-227-3617, $12. All ages.

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