Stephan Mathieu – Before Nostromo


[Reviewed by Matthew Swiezynski]

There is one potential way of entering into the world of drone and electronic music. It involves exposure to Sci-fi horror films at an early age, in the 1970s and early 1980s. Watching these films multiple times on cable or VHS; the music begins to make a strong impact, then the sound, then the sound design. After many years of re-watching the films, the soundtracks are sought out and the music alone is contemplated without the influence of the image. The films in question include “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Shining”, “The Thing”, “Scanners”, “Eraserhead” and “Alien”. The soundtracks and sound design are like some kind of physical manifestation of darkness creeping into an already dark room. There are moments of light, and we get glimpses of incomprehensible worlds reverberating with otherworldly memories and dreams; indications of the unknown and the sublime.

Stephan Mathieu’s newest release in an homage to the sound design for Ridley Scott’s Science fiction classic ‘Alien’. Each piece represents a dream by a Nostromo crew member, experienced minutes before awakening from hypersleep. These dreams are somehow recorded by each member with a device unknown to us, or they are later remembered or even imagined, either by the crew member themselves or by Mr. Mathieu. One thinks of great composers like Giacinto Scelsi or Olivier Messaien, who saw themselves as conduits for some otherworldly presence, as did H.R. Giger, the Alien’s designer. The dreams one hears in this 72-minute album bear no relation to the receiver’s own experiences of the world, and are beyond comprehension.

After multiple listens to “Before Nostromo”, Mathieu’s potential dreams start to become more vivid. The sublime fog slowly dissipates and a world of abstraction appears. Although this abstract world is more disorienting than the fog. This can be heard in the 19-minute track “Stasis 5 (Ripley’s Dream)” where melodies emerge out of a cloud of slowly shifting drones, sometimes in unison and sometimes shifting against each other to create layers of dissonance. Mathieu’s melodies re-evision those of Bach, Beethoven and Schubert, yet are heard as memories of melody, and the instruments are floating water vapor. The dream of the crew member closest to the Alien, Jonesey the Ship Cat (Stasis 6), is probably the most frightening on the album, where complete disorientation occurs through slow-motion drones flickering and pulsating against each other like the horrors that will soon occur onboard the USCSS Nostromo.

Such a wonderful release; of the utmost importance for those following the work of Stephan Mathieu and electronic music in general, and arguably anyone interested in Science fiction film.

Stephan Mathieu – Before Nostromo
Digital 2015

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