Mattesque – “Album” (2018)

Mattesque and I knew of each other before we formally met. We’re part of that dedicated group of Iceland Airwaves fans and over the years we’d see one another at various shows and even at the airport when we happened to be on the same flight to or from Reykjavik. There are dozens of people who we have this kind of strange relationship with, people we recognize on sight but have never actually spoken to. I’m sure Holly and I are part of other people’s recognition circles as well, probably even a few who we personally wouldn’t know on sight. Fortunately a few years back at Bíó Paradís he walked up and said hi, and we all quickly became fast friends. Hopefully we’ll catch up at Airwaves again this year.

Mattesque makes his living with sound. Have you ever wondered where the music and non-music sounds in video games come from? They come from guys like Mattesque, making noise on whatever comes their way, funneling it through various pedals and electro-gizmos in the never-ending quest to make something unique and interesting. He also makes non-gaming music, which you can check out on his Bandcamp page HERE.

Album is a collection of nine ambient and experimental tracks Mattesque wrote in 2018. I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately in various environments – at home, on airplanes, in coffee shops, on my commute – and everywhere I listen it sounds a bit different, interacting with the environment in different ways, a given track fading into the background in a noisy Starbucks but capturing all my attention during an early morning drive to work. If there’s an underlying thread that connects these tracks, to me that would be “introspection”. Of course, that might just be me imparting my psyche onto Mattesque’s art. But isn’t that part of the experience of art? There is an aloneness to the sound. Not lonely… but simply alone. And you can be alone inside a crowded Starbucks in a way that’s not much different than if you were on the dark side of the moon.

Every time I listen to Album it’s the third song, “Long Facts”, that hits me in the face like an unexpected slap. There’s a sharp suddenness to the way it follows the first two tracks, the electronics cold as ice, bringing a precision that makes it impossible to ignore. “In Deep Waves” continues the futuristic feel of “Long Facts” but without the frigidity, moving us into an old lava tube underground where you can start to feel some of the heat of the earth’s core, the pulsing beat like the heartbeat of the planet. I could listen to this 10 minute segment of Album over and over again.

There are some dark turns to Album, places where the mood becomes more sinister. “First Wave Release” transmits an implied danger, not overtly, but more the sense of being in a situation that could result in trouble. It has an underwater feel, like snorkeling and ending up in a dark patch of water in a place where you know there are things that could sting you (or worse) if you’re not careful. It’s not a Great White circling you, but more of a heightened sense of being outside your native environment and in a place where you have minimal control.

“Dark Bit Faders” takes things in an industrial direction. We’re not talking IDM here, but true industrial, the low end beat overlaid with a very metallic, higher pitched one. It’s an industrial sound like one would expect to find inside a factory, the widgets being pounded out by the machinery one after another after another, an endless cycle of production only limited by the need to have a human dump the raw materials into the gaping maw as the assembly line is fed, it’s appetite endless, only stopping when there is nothing left to consume.

I thought about reaching out Mattesque and asking a few questions about his perceptions about Album, but the more I thought about it the more I was reminded of the scene in Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil when John Cusack’s character John Kelso asks Jim Williams if he has x-rayed a painting to see the original painting underneath.

Cusack: How will you know what it’s obscuring?

Jim Williams: I rather enjoy not knowing.

I rather enjoy not knowing too. There’s a lot to like on Album. If your tastes run toward dark ambient, you’ll likely find some things to pull into a loving dark embrace. You can listen to the entire thing on Mattesque’s Bandcamp page as well as purchase your own download, so if you like it, buy it. The money isn’t going to some corporate mega-label so they can trickle a few pennies back to the performer, it’s about supporting the artist directly.