Info Drifting through the Gulf Stream - Mathieu Ruhlmann and Celer 
"Mesoscaphe"
by Mathieu Ruhlmann + Celer
Spekk (KK014)
"Before Pollution ... (excerpt)"
"The Pulling Pools... (excerpt)"
"Passing Emptiness ... (excerpt)"
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fn issue October 2011
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NASA: "At 8:56 P.M. (EDT) July 14, 1969, research submarine Ben Franklin slipped beneath the surface of the Atlantic off the coast of Palm Beach, Florida. Its mission: to investigate the secrets of the Gulf Stream as it drifted northward at depths of 600-2,000 feet. This longest privately-sponsored undersea experiment of its kind ended more than 30-days and 1,444 nautical miles later, when the Franklin and its crew of six surfaced some 300 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, at 7:58 A.M. August 14, 1969." Almost forty years later, sound artists Mathieu Ruhlmann and the duo Celer have created Mesoscaphe, a sound work dedicated to the Ben Franklin's voyage. They capture the submarine's slow motion drift, immersed in the swaying and sleeplessness of the journey.

Ruhlmann is based in Vancouver and has a number of albums available on boutique labels like Mystery Sea, AFE, Taalem and s'agita. He was able to use field recordings of the Ben Franklin from its current home at the Vancouver Maritime Museum (where this release will be part of a future exhibition) as well as ocean sounds recorded nearby. Celer typically use classical string instruments and piano (although I'm hard pressed to hear any piano sounds in Mesoscaphe). They have several self-released CDRs and a couple of superb recent releases on Infraction and and/OAR, but this is their first released studio collaboration with another artist.

Mesoscaphe contains three long tracks with even longer titles. Unusually for a drone work, the artists sonically represent fairly specific incidents from the voyage and provide equally specific visualization suggestions: "The Pulling Pools of Piccard's Scientific Motions / First Night in Complete Darkness / Instrument Settings Below the Transparent Ocean / Our Entrance Into the Stream / Settling Inside the Natural Pathway / Carving An Impermanent Pathway Into the Moonlit Surface / The Melodies Of Our Heartbeats Slowing." Now, one could listen to this album without conscious knowledge of its inspiration, but the continuous oscillations and slow drifts will bring most listeners into at least a subliminal awareness of the ocean. The correspondence between the music and the titles pulls deeper and provides a more immersive listening experience. An extended section of swooshing and burbling white noise suddenly settles into a constant soft drone our entrance into the stream. A gorgeous slow tune emerges beneath water sounds and wide frequency backgrounds the melodies of our heartbeats slowing. Not everything is gentle watery ambience. By turns shrill, tempestuous, dark and murky, and thundering, the music communicates not only the passage of the submarine but the uncertain emotions of the crew that spent a month confined underwater. The month-long voyage provides a narrative framework, transformed into waves of sound, that carries the listener through his and her own nocturnal undercurrent streams, "disregarding realizations and discoveries, leaving everything in peace."

Review by Caleb Deupree

 

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