[reviews] afe097lcd
mathieu ruhlmann: the earth grows in each of us

tokafi []
webzine, germany, october 2007

There is no room and no reason for self-pity: a consilliatory album.

While bearing your soul is on the order of the day in the pop and rock business, sound artists often find it either problematic or purposeless discussing their personal life in public. As Mathieu Ruhlman's "The Earth Grows in Each of Us" shows, that may be a shame.

The contrast with his previous output is remarkable, albeit not as drastic as some may think: even though "Broken Vessels", his album on Mystery Sea, seemed an abstract universe, walking these vast fields made up of myriads of puzzle pieces always meant chasing your own shadow as well. Just like the characters of Stanislaw Lem's "Solaris", Ruhlmann knows that we are never looking for new worlds, but merely for mirrors of ourselves. But, differently than Lem, he still believes the journey serves a purpose.

So, while reflection has been a constant in his oeuvre, there are certainly some changes to be noted with the arrival of "The Earth Grows in Each of Us". Firstly, of course, unamplified instruments form the bulk of the source material: Violin, Piano, Accordion, Voice, as well as recorded sounds of wasps, water and seafoam. On the web, there is a picture of Ruhlmann kneeling and sticking his microphone in between the leaves of a desert plant, trying to catch the tender branches moving in the wind. This fascination for the microcosm behind the physical world and the noises of the big city is also a deciding factor behind the overall production here.

Thematically, meanwhile, he gets more concrete than ever, with numerology showing the direction things are about to take: the first four pieces are exactly one, nine, seven and six minutes long, representing the year 1976 Ruhlmann was born in, while the final three parts of "Holding Light" each weigh in at ten minutes, adding up to his current age of thirty. Ruhlmann is not playing with numbers, though, he is asking questions. With the official end of his youth also came different and mutually opposed developments – his sister being seriously wounded and fighting for her life, while his son was being born at the same time. "The Earth Grows in Each of Us" is not the musical exorcism of a midlife crisis, however, it is a document of the natural observations one makes as death becomes more tangible and life more miraculous than ever.

For long stretches, these long dronescapes are standing still, let for the soft sounding of a bell maybe or a voice speaking in a language one can't understand. Melodies picked off cranking vinyl records are bathed in warm harmonies, lulling themselves to sleep and yet they are not without movement. It is a metaphor for life: things go on in their undeniable way and then, suddenly, they loose their rationale. The end, after all, is always close by, as fas away as it may initially seem to be.

The conclusions of "The Earth Grows in Each of Us" are never nihilistic, however. It juxtaposes the fate of the individual with that of humanity and everything that surrounds us, suggesting that there are no borders between them, even though that may be hard to grasp: there is no room and no reason for self-pity in a world of necessity, cause and reaction.

When listened to carefully, then this album is not sad or melancholic, but rather consilliatory in the face of the two biggets miracles of our existence. If there is a purpose behind glancing in this mirror despite our inability to change the grand scheme, then it must be that we all have to face these issues sooner or later.

[Tobias Fischer]