Kassel Jaeger, Stephan Mathieu, Akira Rabelais
Three giants of experimental electronic composition unite for a haunting and sometimes harrowing meditation on Thomas Mann’s classic novel, known in English as “The Magic Mountain”. The album combines field recordings made in the location where the book is set, extracts of classical music played by the main character in the book, and composed material for piano and electronic sound sources. Lieder singing fades into vague tones that shift like an unsettled breeze; birdsong gives way to an aged recording of cheery, crackling piano from another age; hydrophone sounds and a creaking boat pass into sparse modern piano and murky undertones. Towards the end, what initially sounds like fireworks evoke the implied darkness that Mann’s main character goes off to face at the end of the novel.
I’ve never read “The Magic Mountain”, but I understand it has a reputation for elusiveness, which fits my experience of this album very well. The music seems spectral and evasive, as if it was addressed not to us but to a different time, which in fact it sort of is. Mann’s novel is considered to be, among many things, a meditation on the nature of time and on the ‘tempo’ of an individual life, and this seems also to be the case with the music, as it occupies an ambiguous, multi-layered moment that is always in the act of turning away from the listener, towards a private inner space. Having not read the book, it’s hard to say whether the three artists succeeded in their stated aim of evoking its traces and aura — but the album did make me want to read the novel, which is itself a testament to powerful affect.
Image by Caro Mikalef