I have reviewed the works of the French composer Mathieu Karsenti many times, from Aitaké to Downstream Blue — which had marked a change in his creative personality. A progressive change surely, — as a matter of fact, as I was listening back to his works in chronological descending order, I could hear the clues of what his destination was going to be — but a bold change. His latest release, Bygones, released once more on Slowcraft Records, maintains the composers musical DNA yet marks a definite change in his career. While Downstream Blue was already refined, this time there is even less; perhaps a way for the composer to state his comfort with this new musical nudity.
Bygones is first and foremost the Karsenti’s goodbye to London and Great Britain after over twenty-years; and this very personal feeling could not be more present that in pieces such as “Rebuild” and “Time to Go”.
As a successor of Downstream Blue, the album carries similar ideas, but in a more discreet way. In fact, most of the album — including “Becoming a Man” — reminded me of “O Albion” by Adès, in the way it exploits the each idea through simplistic gestures, such as the exchange of the musical voices that creates diversity.
There is a certain use of electronic textures, however once more very elegantly — such as in “Resilience”.
Some pieces recall some of the composer’s previous works, as if one was looking back at his past. “Friends Lost and Found” and the electric and acoustic guitar is of course reminiscent of Karsenti’s Guitar Impromptus, and the violin and viola of Violeta Vicci — such as in “Upwards” — recalls his Viola Abstractions.
Following in the footpaths of Downsteam Blue, Bygones seems a lot more developed — it is twice as long. It is also a lot more abstract, through pieces where Karsenti seems to stretch even more his harmonic and melodic ideas. It is more challenging for the listener to identify the content of it, and it is through a micro and macro approach that one can understand the album. Ultimately, all the pieces are, according to the composer, open for interpretation with titles that suggest rather than dictate — a true remnant of the impressionists’ ideas.
Bygones is Karsenti’s goodbye to his English life, and a very personal statement. While he has studied applied arts, there has always been a wish to translate visual impressions and sensations through music. With many of his previous releases one could hear the precision of graphite and fine lines, and slowly this precision took the shape of black ink and with this latest project — in the words of the composer himself — it is watercolour that seems to be the medium of choice. Funny enough, Bygones pronounced the French way sounds like be gone.