Although a composer for film, Mathieu Karsenti is on the same wavelength as the best of our Ambient Musicians. With Downstream Blue (21'54") and Bygones (41'14") he resists the urge to compose music which shows off how fast a player can play, or how quickly an ensemble can turn, but rather dares his musicians to perform his scores at a more measured pace and with the utmost care. This pair of releases features work made with a range of instruments: piano, acoustic guitar, bowed strings, as well as electric and synthetic textures - to make a different kind of soundtrack, one for a future that may never arrive. In his enchanted, compact symphonic take on Ambient Music Karsenti composes tone poems slowed to a crawl. Reimagining the monumental structures of orchestral music, he relaxes them, removes the front, center and background, and replaces the virtuoso focal point with a more spacious arrangement - a thoughtful texture and atmosphere which listeners may step into rather than watch playing out from the sidelines. Where restless ever-shifting tones emit a frosty, string-led cold wave, further in an electric piano provides an inventive magical lilt. Chords play and progress toward a resolution, but some seem to get lost - dissolving into a soft aura of digital reverberation. It is the array of expressive sonic shades and hues that produces the looming ambiance of Downstream Blue and Bygones - which make their expressions through variations in the density, surface and radiance of timbre. Away from the familiar climax and release of the common repertoire somber thematic workings move with a beautiful dreamy deliberation. While some of these (12 in total) compositions feel anguished and stormy, others are sonorous and subdued, merging with chilled waves and rounded pulses in a philosophical deconstruction of Classical Music. The resulting fragile soundscapes will lull many to sleep, but awaken a fine few others to all that is good in the world. The duplet of Downstream Blue and Bygones impart the sustaining atmosphere of Ambient Chamber Music, but with a sense of intimacy and immediacy better known from poets of the Spoken arts. This kind of music sounds and thinks the way we do. It is a language we can use to better understand ourselves - while dispelled in its pleasant diversion. It is true that these two releases offer passages of aural beauty and heartening ascent - which will indeed be pleasing to the ear and restorative to the soul - but both also offer a significant challenge to the listener... to hear and know this music deeply, to have your own thoughts and know your own meanings, and respond in the way that you move through the world.
- Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END 15 October 2020