Review: Stephan Mathieu – Remain

Whereas an album like Radioland was almost like staring down a kaleidoscope, with the same thematic sets of colours dissolving and re-appearing in different forms and locations, Remain is a composition of softer lights and more gradual transitions in state – the piece never really reaches a stage of blistering full-radiance, settling for a sort of moody evening glow that dims and intensifies smoothly and carefully.

It’s an hour of minimal activity, with mercurial layers oozing out of the center as placid drones that ascend, fall back and become replaced in a seamless cycle. I get the impression that Remain is quite happy to swim around the subconscious during a state of sleep and to be quietly absorbed without thought, and in fact, the whole experience passes incredibly quickly, even to a fully conscious listener.

It feels as though Mathieu is reluctant to disturb the watery stasis that quickly establishes itself in Remain. Some may find the piece to be a little too cautious as a result, taking only warm, muffled steps forward and introducing only the most explicitly complimentary slithers of texture throughout – barely audible static undercurrents, dampened and intermittent spills of piano keys. But all of this appears to be designed to provoke certain activity from the listener, which is to sink into a meditative state – to descend into absolute contemplation and cut loose from everything else, and to remain without any desire to leave. Whether Mathieu is able to take you there will depend entirely upon who is listening.