SEA 18 | Mathieu Ruhlmann | [Broken Vessels]
"These signs open underneath and spill themselves into calm waters,
back to their apparent sources.
There is no resemblance with the seabed of nature,
harbouring the broken movements of the sediment...
a ship that has been destroyed at sea, slumbers in a young skin of hydrographic
The water-growing to it’s edges, thalassic, with the blaze of drought.
This forms the landscape setting and indissolubly becomes linked with
the rhythms of nature, bathed in oceanic alloy, as though awaiting the
return of the drowning remnants.
Let these sayings
sink down into the sea."
- Mathieu Ruhlmann, August 2004
Ruhlmann is a sound artist with strong visual roots...
with outstanding releases to his name for labels like S'AGITA, compilation
tracks on PETITE SONO & STASISFIELD, unreleased collaboration with
Aaron Lennox via the Soulseek p2p community, he has also a whole body
of further engaging upcoming work...
Rather naturally, it's a visual element which induced the "Broken
Vessels" project, namely an Anselm Kiefer's photograph
(contemporary german artist) depicting iron rods in an old bathtub filled
To meet this initial burst of inspiration, Mathieu
made some in harbour site specific recordings that were filtered and
processed to reveal buried, hidden aspects behind the visible reality,
the multiple facets of an ever transforming organic life...
"Broken Vessels" engenders a dislocation,
a fracture where something new & undefined slowly emerges on the
shifting surface of a shapeless ocean...
Tides of drones, a world of corroded echoes, underwater clanks &
resonances, floundering indecipherable wrecks...
A mysterious crucible of continuous sparkling activity...
"Broken Vessels" points to the range of possibilities
to a state where each friction generates a birth,
every stone becomes a garden,
and every wave a new virginal sea to explore...
Part I > unrar
+ listen !
02. Part II
03. Part III > unrar
+ listen !
4 stars out of 5
Third release from Canadian
soundmaker Mathieu Ruhlmann (after a cdr on S'Agita
and a 3" ep on Taâlem), "Broken Vessels"
is a sombre, nocturnal soundscape which manages to achieve what many
electroacoustic or ambient works lack, i.e. an emotional/psychic grasp
on the listener. Based on the manipulation of a flow of natural recordings
(possibly only water), the three tracks gurgle, scrape and echo throughout,
depicting barren underwater territories and conveying the distressing
feel of being stuck in the belly of an adrift submarine. What lacks
in terms of variation - as all tracks are quite similar in their strategies
- is easily made up for by the genuinely nightmarish listening experience.
This is one of those (actually few) ambient records that you have to
resist and eventually surrender to to fully appreciate them - and surely
one of the darkest interpretations of Mystery Sea's night-drone concept.
The second encounter for me with the work of Mathieu Ruhlmann, following
his 'Two Stills Concrete' on S'Agita (see Vital Weekly 399). For this
new work, Ruhlmann (despite his German sounding name from Canada) took
his inspiration from a photo by Anselm Kiefer: iron rods in an old bathtub
filled with water. To this end Mathieu went to a harbour and recorded
sounds there of water, but also ships bouncing against the harbourwalls
and the like. Back home the material is transfered to the computer and
extremely filtered, although throughout the water sounds can be recognized
throughout these three lengthy pieces. Huge walls of reverb make this
into a particular dark ambient work. More Side Effects than Hypnos,
if you catch my drift. Maybe some of the processing is too simple (adding
reverb is something that is not really an interesting tool when composing),
but especially the first two parts have a good combination of water
sounds, electronic processings and filtered field recordings
That makes things quite nice for this one.
DIGITALIS |Brad Rose
Rated : 7 out of 10
A beautifully packaged CD-R from the intriguing Mystery Sea label out
of Belgium finds Canadian sound artist Mathieu Ruhlmann taking a plunge
into icy depths. "Broken Vessels" is a three-part journey
through the Arctic on a rickety ship. These complex, barely-there compositions
are cerebral. The minimalistic nature of them only enhances their effect.
Opening with a 30-minute track, like Ruhlmann does here, is not an easy
undertaking, but he pulls it off. "Part 1" is an example of
Ruhlmann's sonic mastery. Each subtle texture, perfectly placed to make
the whole piece much greater than the sum of its parts. This is delicate
stuff, but the cracks in the armor are few and far between. "Part
2" continues the journey, though tiny rays of sunlight creep through
the dense grey blanket that encloses your world. It is nothing more
than a glimmer of hope that you'll escape. "Part 3" ends the
misery as the pearly gates open and welcome you with open arms. There
is something utterly ghostly about this piece - it's fantastic. "Broken
Vessels" is a challenging listen, for sure, but these spacious
droning compositions are well worth that effort.
Sometimes, an artist will have to go to places whence
most listeners will be unwilling to follow. An idea will force itself
upon him and he’ll know he will have to see it through without once
even glancing at the consequences or thinking about whether anyone out
there will care. Such is the case with “Broken Vessels”,
one of the early works of Mathieu Ruhlmann, released
in autumn of 2004 and a triptych of tracks which has lost nothing of
its majestic extremeness .
And truly, this is an album of frightening proportions and of relentless
radicalism, a monolith of sound carved into heavy stone over years,
the way water slowly erodes even the most solid granitic rock on its
path through time. The opening movement already seems to defy all common
sense and conventions, a thirty minute-long barren gaze at a bled-out
landscape. It helps to know that Ruhlmann, who is a
pivotal part of the amazingly vibrant Canadian underground, started
out as a visual artist in search of accompanying sounds and that “Broken
Vessels” was inspired by Anselm Kiefer’s leaps from the two-dimensional
to the three-dimensional in general and an old bathtub filled with iron
rods in particular. This certainly is music in search of an image, be
it on paper, canvas or the projection plains of the mind. On the surface,
there is nothing more than a seething grumble from the deep, shreds
of see-through drones scanning the darkness like fluorescent fishes
ten miles below and myriads of microscopic sound events being born and
dying off at every moment and dispersed into all corners of the aural
spectrum. Ruhlmann went into the harbor for suitable sampling sources
and he has returned with the noises of ships, metal against metal, machines
and men, ore going down a waterfall and waves breaking on the harbor
wall, only to distort them beyond recognizability in the composing process.
These unnaturally organic recordings populate the moors and swamps of
the music like insects swarming a prehistoric everglade and it is them
who are at the core of these three tracks, not the greyish harmonic
static breathing underneath. Which means that measured in terms of traditional
Western music, there is next to nothing going on here and “Broken
Vessels” leaves merely an ephemeral impression when listened
to in the background. It is only on closer inspection, that it reveals
its power, forces its audience to look into its depths, deal with its
impact and to discern the subtle differences between its three different
There is a good chance that many people will not want to wait for that
to happen, that they will find this too dark, too long, too same-ish,
too monochromatic or even outright boring. All of which is even true
in a sense. But at the same time, the unrelenting vastness of this vision
develops a irresistible pull, forcing the receptive ear to return and
to slowly understand, just like it pulled in Mathieu Ruhlmann,
forcing him to stay true to the purity of his idea against all odds
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