The first time I heard Stephan Mathieu's work was at a sweltering after-party in Barcelona: with the air conditioning broken and the windows shut tight, attendees appeared to be sweating out their drinks almost as quickly as they could consume them. But Kit Clayton, the evening's DJ, pulled off a neat trick, filling his set with swirling, dry-ice atmopherics so foggy and cold that just for a moment I could have sworn that the sound was cooling the sweat on my skin.
A little over a year later, I've forgotten what tracks enabled Clayton to achieve the effect all, that is, but one: Stephan Mathieu's Full Swing remix of Laub's "Weit Weg," a blast of cool static that will forever suggest to me the slow creep of frost across glass. (You can find that mix on Laub's Intuition collection of remixes, and it's also forthcoming from Orthlorng Musork on Mathieu's Edits 10-inch series.)
Most of Mathieu's work, as it turns out, shares this predilection for haze and hiss, and frequencyLib is no different. The songs are minimal in effort, if not sound: an unresolving loop or two of some acoustic-sounding source is set into play and then manipulated ever so slightly, as though warped by heat and distressed with fine-grained sandpaper.
A thin film of dust seems to cover Mathieu's deceptively simple melodic fragments, lending them the same kind of digital trompe l'oeil quality that characterizes Pole's earlier recordings: although the hiss is a digital byproduct, it sounds analog, recalling the whisper of aged vinyl or the static of short-wave. Indeed, in triggering these associations, Mathieu's use of effects comes to seem almost like a kind of artificial nostalgia, or to put it another way, it treats nostalgia as just another readymade.
If you're not careful, frequencyLib can slip past you almost unnoticed: the 26 songs, mostly a minute or two long, slip subtly in and out of each other's skins, morphing and mirroring. frequencyLib presents a model of distracted listening, but this can't be accidental: with its almost-recognizable snippets and barely-noticed shifts, it plays out like the perpetual soundtrack in our peripheral hearing, alluring and always just out of reach.