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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Mathias Grassow Through an Unknown Stargate (2022)

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

A very beautiful album of ambient music a bit complex where the universes of great names in the genre are crossing

1 Born out of Nowhere 4:03

2 The Drivers of Fate 25:17

3 Greenwashing 8:59

4 Through an Unknown Stargate 35:15

5 Through an Unknown Stargate (Bonus Track) 60:24

(DDL/CD(r) 73:37) (V.F.)

(Ambient Music)

The management of Cyclical Dreams continues to amass the big catches. After Michael Brückner, Christian Fiesel and Paul Ellis, the Argentinian label proposes to make us discover the music of a veteran of atmospheric electronic music (EM), Mathias Grassow. The German musician has an impressive discography of more than 400 releases (Tapes, vinyl, CD, compilations and downloads) spread over a distance of 42 years, since Erste Aufnahmen released in 1980. His name is more often than not associated with more experimental ambient EM with sometimes hypnotic rhythm sequences. This is exactly what we find on THROUGH AN UNKNOWN STARGATE, a more interesting album than one can anticipate, and which possesses the necessary ingredients to seduce a wider audience. The album was made during the Interstellar Ambiance sessions in spring 2022. For Mathias Grassow, this is the instrumental question to humanity; where our planet is going if we continue like this...

It's under a knot of vibrating waves and guttural breaths unraveling in the shadow of tinklings that Born out of Nowhere activates a slow rhythm around its second minute. The murmurs have this texture of didgeridoo as well as bleatings of a cross between man and sheep. One would be led to believe in a vague tribal incantation that the percussion roots with slowly spaced beats that structure a slow hypnotic trance, while the sonic texture is stigmatized in sinuous buzzing breezes and incantatory ululates. The Drivers of Fate begins with an opaque wave of drones. A more musical wave oscillates behind these dull hums, counterbalancing the very dark vision of the first minutes of a long track where our ears have to be on the lookout in order to catch the multiple nuances, like these breaths with more luciferian vibrations, which develop inside the 25 minutes of this purely atmospheric track. A chthonian horn emerges from this cloud of buzzing radioactivity a little after the 5th minute. Its long laments come and go in this docile turbulence of the atmospheric elements, bringing a lyrical rather than a sibylline side to this passive sonorous ode. The movement is linear and offers little emotional gradation in its growth until percussions get in as if by magic a few seconds before the 15th minute. The strikes bring to life a kind of clock metronomic rhythm, and by ricochet the dense atmospheric web of The Drivers of Fate that gradually goes to a slightly more intense finale. Greenwashing offers a fascinating structure of rhythm made not for dancing but for thinking. A surprisingly static rhythm structured on shimmering chords with a sibylline voice effect that clings to bass pulsations or short cadenced exclamations of a bass that doesn't crave rhythm. Moreover, a shadow of bass detaches itself from it to hover heavily. This element injects an experimental character to this astonishing structure that bubbles up from within while making a choir of cherubic spectres sing an incomprehensible dialect. Different, but there is something here that magnetizes our eardrums to the evolution of a track that ends in droning whining from those winds logged of whispering.

Iridescent synth lines illuminate the opening of Through an Unknown Stargate. The musical horizon is vast with elements that add up to create a sonic climate whose scope draws our senses to the fine modulations of a music that is astral to say the least. I like the chant of these synth waves flickering like flames in lack of oxygen on a wave of fog which seeks to be nailed to the ground. Smothered percussive elements cast a cadenced crumpling effect while chords tinkle here and there, haloing the ambiences with an ephemeral musical life. For the rest, the movement remains hovering. Linear with subtle modulations that give it at times this musical energy necessary to live beyond its 35 minutes. Organ-like layers are offered as musical offerings, and the fusion with these iridescent singing waves cements this perfect balance between light and shadow that keeps the interest to discover more and more the evolution of Through an Unknown Stargate that takes a darker corridor around the 12th minute. This new surge of drones almost absorbs the opaline chants which remain just enough present to counterbalance the impact of this huge drone effect. The tone of the organ takes more ascendancy on the progression of the track, bringing to a nice point of emotivity which goes increasing throughout its second part. The tinkling are not quite gone. They radiate faintly around the 22nd minute, where the long title-track drops a small thread of ambient melody while the synth layers get more emotive. A muffled beat can be heard around the 24th minute. The tinklings and the more defined musicality of the layers, coupled with the blossoming of this hypnotic trance rhythm, lead our mind to an intense finale that started its escalation shortly after the arrival of the metronomic beats. A track that has a huge bewitching power since its first moments!

I was pleasantly surprised by THROUGH AN UNKNOWN STARGATE. From what I had heard about Mathias Grassow's style, I anticipated an album of complex ambiences that would flirt with an experimental genre not very suitable for my sometimes rather frightened ears. But it's quite the contrary! I discovered a very beautiful album where the universes of Steve Roach, Paul Ellis and Byron Metcalf cross their destinies for a more tenebrous vision but always magnetizing for the senses. To be discovered!

Sylvain Lupari (01/10/22) ****¼*

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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