AMN Reviews: Matthias Puech – A Geography of Absence [NAHAL Recordings]

I’m glad to have the opportunity to hear this before it drops on 6/18/2021 because, in short, it’s really good and I feel it should be on more people’s radars so they can enjoy the entire album once it releases. Per his PR kit, Matthias seems to be no stranger to computer-generated music, being a researcher in theoretical computer science and an engineer at GRM. That being said, A Geography of Absence is not all about the bits and bytes of computer music. He skillfully uses environmental field recordings to layer over (or under) the more synthetic drones he spins up.

This very creative amalgam of natural and machine is really the secret sauce of this record. The synergies are quite unique and expressive and may be attributed to Puech also being a synthesizer builder. On this release, using such tech as the Oscillator Ensemble and the Tapographic Delay (yeah, I don’t know what it is either but I may name drop it at the next cocktail party)…machines that he has developed himself, he has conjured up something refreshingly outside of your standard dynamically increasing drone album.

Throughout this 37 minute release, the 7 pieces flow nicely and very organically into each other. As in most drone albums, the mood is somewhat somber and A Geography of Absence is no exception. What is a bit different here is the mood changes from piece to piece. Even though each song naturally connects to the next, I felt like I was dropped into a decidedly different soundscape, but done very smoothly, as if walking through an open door into the next tableau sans any jarring sound event.

I also appreciated the variations of field recordings used. Clanging cowbells, deep forest wildlife sounds, and other, more opaque events gave me a sense of a continuous night scene…made more threatening thanks to the electronic layer melded over these sounds. As most great drone albums do, these electronic sounds are initially mixed in at low levels only to be skillfully and gradually increased in volume resulting in some grand textures and tensions.

Finally, I should mention his use of beats. These are used very sparingly on a couple of the cuts and care was taken to not make them sound like easy to count standard techno-like rhythms. For the short period of time they are deployed, they succeeded in magnifying the dark and somewhat cosmic nature of the overall soundscape. I, for one, appreciated the somewhat jerky rhythms in the programming. Different, and welcomely unexpected.

The last piece of the album, Homeostasis, has been prereleased and can be heard on his Bandcamp page where you can also pre-order…or you can check it out at the link above.

As I said at the beginning of this write-up, this album comes very much recommended. If you are looking for a somewhat different take on a drone listen, A Geography of Absence does a great job of scratching that itch and is an artist I personally plan to get to know better.

Mike Eisenberg