Free Software Series
Since I first heard his music almost a decade ago now the Basque laptop improviser Mattin has intrigued, excited, annoyed, confused, irritated, delighted, inspired, stunned, challenged and bored me in roughly equal amounts. One thing I can say for sure about the man and his music however is that he always grabs my attention.
The Free Software Series label has been set up by Mattin to promote the free distribution of music creation freeware and to showcase music created with it. Broken Subject is the fourth in the series, and the only one of the four releases so far to feature Mattin. If his music over the past few years may have seemed to focus as much on the conceptual as the inherently musical, Broken Subject feels like a move back in the other direction, however temporary. The ten tracks on this CDR bristle with a muscular vitality and directness that feels like the work of a musician engaging tightly, almost physically with the music, like a potter behind his wheel wrestling with his creation.
Whilst retaining this sense of energy throughout, the assorted tracks here range from the relatively loud and violent through to the barely audible, utilising quite a range of dynamics, from the forceful blasts that open the album to the fine slithers elsewhere. Each of the tracks seems to focus on a small set of sounds, always digital in nature, but somehow sounding different to the usual squawks and drones of the solo laptopper. Perhaps the absence of Max/MSP filters makes all the difference, but those throttled, glitchy sounds that sounded so fresh in the early days of Mego Records but now feel so dated are not present here.
If anything the sounds Mattin produces on Broken Subject seem closer to the stark rigour of the new Korean improvisers documented of late by the Manual and Balloon and Needle labels and with whom Mattin has played and recorded. The album has a feel of malfunctioning technology to it, the sound of modern digital media tripping over itself, a wild uncertainty as if to a degree the sounds shaped by Mattin are pulled from the software by chance.
The one element of the album that hints at some level of predetermination is the length of the tracks, as all of them last exactly three minutes. Its not clear if Broken Subject is composed to any degree, whether the exact time limits are the result of editing after the fact or if limitations were set on the recording of the pieces. The way that the tracks each focus one area of sound for their brief duration works very nicely though, allowing the distinct dynamics of each of the separate pieces to offset one another. This provides the album with an overall sense of symmetrical construction that would suggest that the track order was carefully chosen if nothing else.
So no pithy conversations with the listener, no dreadful singing, nothing that is likely to offend, but instead Broken Subject is a challenging, abrasive album that seems to capture raw energy and place it into a precise framework. An intriguing and somewhat original work that goes some way further than merely promoting the potential of music freeware.
Available to buy as a CDR or download free from
Free Software Series/
Bad Alchemy # 57 Feb. 2008 (Deutschland)
This CDr, limited to 50 copies but freely downloadable on the
label’s site (actually from archive.org to which the site is linking), is part
of a series of releases to promote experimental works using free
software (hence the name Free Software Series) -
More info (and full album downloads) can be found on the site
dedicated to this series. This one is part 4, and is by Mattin
who is probably also the person behind this initiative - The CDr’s
title “Broken Subject” covers the material that’s on it pretty well:
this is a crunchy release, by times sounding like a radio slowly being
crushed to smitters accompanied by sparkling, yet minimal
transistornoise and - towards the end - whirling alarms. 30 minutes in
length, chopped into slices of 3 minutes for random pleasure, a couple
deceiving silences included. Also see my review of Abjektor
[over here], by [Sic]
Tim Goldie, also released by Mattin (on Hibarimusic).
The Wire #289 March 2008 (London)
The Basque electroacoustic improvisor Mattin offers another sound missive to add to the pile - ten piercing stubs of computer generated noise/silence,
all precisely three minutes long. Weather Mattin deliberately sets out to try the patience of even the most adventurous consumers of modern music is a moot point - you do suspect there is a strain of listeners who considers it a test of their hardness to endure Mattin. So, here's a taste of what you get.
Track three: silence. Track four: a sustained burst of what sounds like a disgustingly prolonged flatulence, put through a processor. Track five: a dentist's drill.
Track six: flatlining spurts of static. Track eight: the sound of the suction device you spit the pink water into after submitting to the dentist's drill. Track nice: more silence. This sounds like philistine derision, but without any explanation or context, or attempt to forge all this sonic matter into any particular shape, one fells a bit goaded. Mattin runs a very full and discursive website, and this music is free of copyright and available for anyone to make of it what they wish - but isn't that the artist's job in the first place?
Projector # 17 (UK)
Mattin and Broken Subject (FREE SS 04)
is ten tracks of noise music edited into
bite-sized snippets that are precisely three minutes long. Except for the last one
which is 2:59, for some cryptic reason. Apparently this has been performed by
three people (two of them identified by their initials), unless SC and PD are some
new form of noise-generating software with which I'm unfamiliar.
Ardour, which is a virtual mixing desk, was used to edit and master
the disk. The noise here is nowhere near as virulent and hostile as
the last batch of screeching feedback I've endured from Mattin, but
it is still very hard to listen to. This is
mainly due to the severe fragmentation of
the work, resulting in a stuttering effect
that interrupts any listening pleasure;
hence `broken subject' I suppose.
Composed from a variety of grisly
rumblings, high-pitched screeches,
shapeless electronic bursts and what-not,
the effect is like so much digital junk being
rolled inexorably across your vulnerable
hard drive. A monotonous and frustrating
listen. Mattin's personal approach to the
software-music interface is almost the
exact opposite of Brian Eno and his
`generative music' software. Where Eno is
about setting up endless possibilities,
Mattin is all about wholesale destruction
and permanent damage, and it's hard to
see what benefits mankind will derive
from this artistic cul-de-sac into which
he's driving at top speed. We are,
however, being urged to use the software
and create for ourselves, rather than
remaining passive consumers.
desetxea net label