Minimalism can come from a desire to reduce a busy environment to its underlying essential elements. Richard Chartier’s digitally pure near-silence stems from this desire to turn the volume down. Influenced by the refrigerator’s buzz in his childhood home (something he’s talked about in interviews) he has since made much of his work based around the idea of amplifying the periphery of perceived sound. For artists like Richard Chartier minimalism comes from the embrace of modernity, like the industrial hums, the digital clicks, the exploration of these overlooked sounds. On the other side of the minimalist approach is the goal of isolation away from these distracting sounds, the embrace of the natural world, or a more naturalistic minimalism. Now it could be purely a difference of viewpoint when the ultimate product may seem similar on the surface. Yet underneath that music the underlying reason makes its presence felt. Certainly Francisco Lopez’s lush field recording “La Selva” adheres to this aesthetic. While it explores these sounds in full the concept behind it (of isolating oneself completely from the urbane world to immerse oneself in an entirely different world) results in music that can be perhaps more emotional than stripped down sound to its barest purest sound.
At first listen Matt Rösner’s “Repeat” appears to belong in the first camp, towards the reductionist approach. Songs are austere in nature throughout the entire duration of the album. Icy might be the initial impression that these songs give yet upon further listens a sense of life reveals itself beneath the impeccably designed tones. Rather than wintry tones these contemplative warm pieces give off a calm sense of purpose. Absolutely confident they radiate with energy appearing as horizons never quite in full bloom always rising and falling. Electro-acoustic in the best possible sense he takes the initial human nature of the sounds (whether vocal, piano, guitar, etc.) and plays with them. Through this approach he weaves between the human and the manipulated, never settling on either. At times it feels akin to his own unique part of the world, in isolated rural Western Australia, sun-drenched and mysterious.
These are songs that reveal what restraint and focus can do. From the ghostly drones that emanate from the opener “Echo” Matt Rösner wastes no time on build. Silence becomes an integral part of the sound as he lets the tones come in and out of view. Cycles remain at the heart of each of the pieces as the cyclical nature gives off a naturalistic air, far removed from scrubbed clean digital recordings. He includes the slight variations, the waverings, the hums, on songs like the title track “Repeat” where the song develops akin to that of Eliane Radigue’s infinitely patient expressive pieces. Behind every song, however cold it may seem at first, is a personality unique unto itself. Playful in nature are the conflicting tones of “Departure” which explore the concept of decay, literally bouncing off of each other. The deep resonant hues of “Intersection” lets Matt Rösner focus on the space in between sounds as the decay serves as its defining element. By far the highlight of the album is the revelatory “Lattices”. On this piece Matt Rösner’s strategy becomes apparent. Starting off with quiet subdued oscillations the song emerges out of this area into the light, ending off with pitch perfect field recordings to reveal the life that helped to make such sounds possible.
Throughout the album Matt Rösner’s sounds teem with life. Choices made throughout the recordings show a keen ear. Various elongated tones, the tactile nature of the sounds, these reveal not a stripped down approach but one that builds up. While listening to this in a near silent environment it can seem as if the songs are reductionist in their approach. However that is not simply not the case. Matt Rösner includes a great many hues of color within the pieces. Additionally the songs benefit from active sonic environments, a commute, movement, for these are about movement. In noisier spaces the songs force the listener to determine what is necessary to pay attention to and what to filter out. People do this all the time; they figure out how to selectively pay attention to what is the most important and with this album it becomes even more readily apparent.
Matt Rösner’s “Repeat” respects the listener giving them the opportunity to determine how to best interact with their environment. For minimalism of modernity can strip down, but it is the naturalistic approach of minimalism that builds that allows for imperfections and honestly beauty is better with the imperfections. Matt Rösner’s “Repeat” proves this.