After the exploration of snowy mountains of Alpestres, released on Hands in the Dark in 2018, French composer Matthias Puech ventures into new territories, sketching a cartography of the invisible where the journey, in chiaroscuro, is announced as a rite of passage. A Geography of Absence, as introspective as unpredictable, immerses the listener into a unique sensory whirlwind where organic matter becomes almost palpable. A researcher in theoretical computer science and an engineer at GRM, Matthias Puech constructs a dialog between synthetic music and field recording, capturing sounds that surround him and creating his own sonic language with the help of synthesizers he designs and develops; notably the Oscillator Ensemble and the Tapographic Delay, made by the American company 4ms.
Composed during a moment marked by ordeal and mourning, A Geography of Absence retraces an inner journey where the physicality of sound leads the listener into an initiatory tunnel filled with apparitions, ghosts, visions. With sound oscillations as a navigational map, we progress, step by step, through the meanders of an unknown world, dazzled by the prospect of a new synthetic horizon, an electronic biotope teeming with life and incarnations. Playing with time, space and matter in an approach similar to that of musique concrète, Matthias Puech combines ambient and noise, floating sounds and electroacoustic experimentations, thus shaking up our listening perspective, which finds itself walking through a parallel universe, strata after strata, sequence after sequence.
The trip begins with “Hollow”, as if on board a night train travelling at full speed through ghost towns. Or is it a spaceship? Removed from their original habitat, sounds – picked up during walks or moduled by synths – are free to be interpreted differently by everyone, according to the memories that shape us. Granular and metallic, this first piece takes us to an elsewhere in orbit. "Work Song" is built around the pulsation of the void, of space, where strange creatures and liquid emanations abound. We become fetus, cocoon coiled in the placenta, heart beating to the rhythm of the gooey choreography of the human body. "Chrysalis" awakens the racket that lies dormant in us, when the skin changes, when the transition takes place. One seems to recognize certain sounds stemming from nature but they could also be mirages, imitating reality to render the barely perceptible engulfing. “Tunnel Vision” brings out a herd of haunted bells, slowly swelling in a pastoral maelstrom, ending in a deafening buzz. Further on, the chirping of an animatronic bird mixes with the hooting of an owl: "A Faint Beacon" invokes a nocturnal vigil that mixes the crackling of a fire and icy gusts of wind blowing everything away. Like an epic, sucking the listener into the breach of a black hole in the center of the Milky Way, it's up to "Homeostasis" to conclude in the high spheres and contemplative vapors, where the balance of dawn announces a rebirth.
A Geography of Absence is a meticulous and sensitive piece that constructs a delicate symphony of extremes, between introspection and desire for the unknown. Accompanied by the ink work of the artist Léa Neuville, whose folds of prints sketch this imaginary atlas, Matthias Puech becomes a narrator of mental adventures. And succeeds once again in transcending reality to dig a path to the unspeakable.