Mathieu Karsenti – Movements.

Following on from his “Aitaké Suite for Solo Violin” Ep which featured on my Best of list for last year, Mathieu Karsenti unleashes his new Ep “Movements”. Featuring musicians such as a percussionist Joe Martone, his wife, violinist Jordan Ann, Karsenti plays piano and the other instruments.

Karsenti describes the Ep as “A cinematic exploration of shifting percussive patterns and flowing contrapuntal violin parts– composed for 3 percussive instruments (vibraphone, marimba, piano) and 3 violins, with added FX. With this release, percussion and strings set the tone throughout with new sonic colour combinations and constant movement that propels the music forward.

‘Movements’ also features Mathieu’s improvisations based on ErikSatie’s ‘Gnossienne No1’ and J.S Bach’s ‘Aria of the Pastorale in C minor’, given a whole new cinematic treatment. As always, Mathieu’s music invites the listener to find what they want in his compositions: he doesn’t dictate what one should feel rather he lets the listener engage with the music as they will.”

“Movements Number One” music in a classical or neo/modern classical vein can lead to a variety of interpretations. In a way it has, for me, melded into the Ambient genre in the sense that the music is not just a form of entertainment, something you can sing along to. Its more of a form of music that invites deeper listening and one which can extract more meaning to the listener than a style of music such as indie pop. With Karsenti’s soundtrack background (including works for BBC 1, Disney, Bravo and others) you feel that you will be in for more of a journey than most modern classical. Instantly with this Ep I feel like the music has grander purposes, like a major motion picture or a West End / Broadway play. The music generated on this track and indeed the Ep, feel like Karsenti’s name could easily be added to the canon of artists who have emerged from the modern classical underground and onwards to being film composers of note. Names like Max Richter, Johann Johannsson and Hauschka come to mind.

Opening with vibraphone that has a beautiful echoing and fragile quality, marimba, piano and violin sweep the piece into fully cinematic scopes. Musically the piece is built upon repetition which creates this hypnotic tension that would suit an Alfred Hitchcock film as for some reason it makes me think of black and white tones. There is suspense in the music, not only just in the weight of the strings, but also in the marimba and the way the use of pace builds the tension as the music moves through its movements. Karsenti’s piano initiates a section where the music briefly becomes highly emotive and almost searching for release. It then changes back to the opening stark, almost ambient like vibraphone before the final movement in the piece works as a combination of what has come before. As Karsenti mentions in the press release, the interpretation of the music is left up to the listener. Some music can easily lead the listener to a mood or feel, for example solo piano can elicit melancholy or introspection. For this piece Karsenti and his collaborators create tension, but don’t direct the listener in a particular direction.

“Movements Number Two” initially takes the music in a more electronic vein with warped piano stabs and field recordings before marimba, shakers, vibraphone and violin take the music in a style, that while I have no true musical knowledge about, feels influenced by ethnic style classical music. It’s possibly the percussive elements are leading me in this direction with their sounds somewhat reminding me of Dead Can Dance’s instrumentation. With this piece the cinematic feeling is as strong as ever. The music has a flowing quality, at times intense and one which feels fully expressive and open. While “Movements Number One” was more loop driven, this piece feels more narrative driven as the music changes throughout the piece highlighting certain instruments, such as the piano and the violin, and while there are returning motifs it feels likes a reflection backwards than a repetition of movements. The use of FX adds a nice touch as it is not heavy-handed and brings a contemporary feel to the piece.

“Aria de la pastorale after Bach” is when the pure classical moments enter the EP. A slightly dark piece that feels shrouded and cloaked, the tone is moody and mysterious. Vibraphone piano and violin alongside the FX create an eerie suspenseful piece with a mixture of rippling tones (the vibraphone), screeching passages (the violin) and fragility (the piano). Each instrument carries their own particular mood or feel and its the result of these coming together which gives the piece a multi layered touch. At times it sounds like a noir soundtrack, part jazz and a traditional barroque classical piece.

“Gnossienne One after Satie” the Gnossienne was a term and style invented by Erik Satie whom some claim to be an early Ambient originator. The style of music is more free form with for the most part lacking time signatures. This allows the music to move from style to style and alter pace throughout. Starting off with a dark ambient beginning Karsenti brings in piano and layers of violin alongside vibraphone and later marimba to create a piece that fully investigates tension within its relatively short duration. The piano keeps a rather consistent rhythm while the remaining instrumentation in particular the violins with their intense playing bring forth the mood within the piece. With the final minute of the piece, the piano becomes equally expressive as Karsenti flows across the keys with a similar rhythm to that of the vibraphone and marimba.

“Something Blue” opens with fragments of cold metallic sounds that are manipulated and looped into drones. Piano which sounds introspective, leads through to a section where the music is the most percussive it has been on the Ep. Wood block sounds (possibly hitting the marimba in a different fashion) break up the flow and give the music punctuation marks that acts as markers for the music to follow. Other than the instrumentation, there is an underbelly of electronics which are subtle enough not to be intrusive and also add to the atmosphere of the piece. The guiding instrument of the piece is the violin. It leads the piece through its most intense moments and provides a foil for the piano which is grounding the piece. The Satie influence of the previous track feels to have kept in to this piece in regards to its various time signatures and construction. It’s the type of piece that feels like a mixture of a variety of styles including post rock, neo – classical and experimental, all coated with  noir-ish touches.

For “Movements” Karsenti alongside Martone and Ann, has created an Ep which enhances his reputation in my eyes (and ears), as a composer that is incredibly adept at creating music that uses a small sound palette of instrumentation, that is breath-taking in its vastness and scope. The music of this and indeed his last Ep, are works that are simply beautiful, impressive and music that should be heard by as many people as possible. Now, I do not have the knowledge of musical theory to further discus musical movements or history, of different styles or techniques,  nor do I dip into thesaurus’ to find words of inspiration that I don’t use in real life. That said, Karsenti’s music speaks to me and I find myself totally captivated. Totally Recommended. “Movements” is available January 14 as a digital release.

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