Published Nov 30, 2018Paula Matthusen and Olivia Valentine's collaboration on this project dates back to 2016 when the duo booked a live performance in Budapest, after which they accepted residencies at the Hambidge Center and Artists' Cooperative Residency & Exhibitions. It's not immediately obvious why Between Systems and Grounds required such an extended germination process — and that has a great deal to do with its appeal.
There is nothing immediately obvious about this subtly beautiful recording; the details are so fine, they're almost microscopic. Matthusen makes feedback-based electronic music; Valentine is a visual artist. Together, they've developed a project that is equal parts improvisational performance, textile workshop and what Brian Eno has described as system or generative music. Performances incorporate both interior and exterior ambient sounds as they occur over the course of their extended, slow-paced improvisations. If a floor creaks, well, it creaks. Bird song is welcome, even if the performance goes uncredited.
At the centre of all this, Valentine constructs lace textiles that trigger Matthusen's electronics. The result is delicate in the extreme, and as a result of the inputs and ambient sounds, warmly organic. While some music of this kind is designed to enhance whatever environment the listener is in, Between Systems and Grounds is a more demanding experience. You will find yourself intensely focused on it, in part because it is rather quiet but also because it is exquisitely detailed. (Carrier Records)