The French composer Mathieu Karsenti excels at surprising his audience. However, it is most often reflected in the instrumental choices or the musical themes of his works. His approach is consistent and has allowed him to demonstrate a strong creative personality. However Downstream Blue, his latest release, takes an unexpected turn; so long to contrapuntal polyphonic music, the focus this time is linear and along the characteristics of ambient music: slow, textural and multi-layered.
Through four pieces — approached by the composers as successive movements, in relation with each other —, “Pale”, “Loosen”, “Further” and “Only Light”, Karsenti develops a musical stream
with balance in textures, levels and shades of consciousness. The sonic register of the project embraces low ends and grittiness. Yes, it is more contemplative than the composer’s previous works, but his personality still coexists within the journey. In contrast to the past — where the instrumentation has been centered around one instrument — here, there is a bit of everything: guitar, synth, piano, strings, winds, reversed delay etc. In Downstream Blue, there are different levels; a constant background and closer entities that interact with the listener and evolve over time, back and forth.
Downstream Blue is an unexpected turn, but it is very well crafted and steers away from meditative music cliches — which is often a trap for composers approaching slow music. It is all about how the sounds evolve, connect and disconnect with each other. I know the composer as being very fond of the music of Debussy, and this is very close to being a modern approach to what the French composer was doing a century ago — as well as an involuntary reference to the recent master of slow paced music, Jóhannsson.