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The Sad Mac

Stephan Mathieu
The Sad Mac

If The Sad Mac is the sound of frustration with technology, one might never guess it by listening to the actual release. As the story goes, when Mathieu started working on his newest album, his computer kept on crashing and crashing, so rather than try to fight with his machine head-on, he simply scaled back, working in more archaic computer programs and with more simplistic editing and production techniques. As it turns out, the results aren't that much different than one would expect from his work, and like his most recent collaboration with Tape (On Tape) seem to explore the actual creation of the work as much as the work itself.

Released on the Headz label from Japan, the first thing one notices is the glorious packaging. The CD is housed in a little hard cardboard case (which feels like a flip-open hardbound book with the pages missing) with a very subtle cubist reworking of the Apple Computer logo gracing the outer cover. The music itself opens with a bit of a warning shot in the blistering electronics of the fifteen-second "Anakrousis," but soon levels off dramatically with "Theme For Oud Amelisweerd," a seventeen-minute piece that mixes soft drones of violin and harpsichord into a beautiful piece of quiet, longing.

"Nibbio" follows and after a short field recording of cicadas, it again lofts into a cloud of filtered string and vocal drones while "Smile" takes on some structure with mingling layers of bagpipes, ocarina, hurdy-gurdy, organ, and spoken-word vocals that seem to tie the whole thing together. Like the opening track, "Portrait Of The Composer As Turbonegro" arrives halfway through and shakes up the pastoral release with a quick burst of garbled electronic noise created from a picture-to-sound program.

Despite the fine opening, the best tracks on the release still come later. "Luft Von Anderen Planeten" mixes soft droning tones with a delightful field recording of Mathieu's wife singing while cooking and listening to the radio (with birds singing in the distance and the wind softly blowing) while "Imagination" blends simple piano melodies with lingering tones into something that feels both of this release and yet different. As Mathieu has shown in the past, he's an artist who is able to bring conceptual ideas into the creation of his work without letting it dramatically affect what he is doing. With The Sad Mac, he's created a release that's shows off (whether or not he meant to) what one can do by simply thinking of different routes in getting to the same point. There's something that lots of artists could learn from that simple thought alone.

Rating: 7