p r e s s

Mountains and Plains
Reviews excerpts

‘It’s a beautifully crafted work…A low-key charmer destined, one suspects, for a long life.’
Neil Spencer, The Observer / The Guardian

‘A veil of emotions, with melancholic rhythms often crowned by epic sweeping surges.’
Eric Delhaye, Libération

‘Always evocative, with an understated subtle power
that never fails to engage and emotionally resonate.

It’s impressionist, cliché-free and parsimonious music at its best.’
Harmonic Distortion

‘This album is a highly accomplished body of work…
it is a highly personal, evocative, thought-provoking, affecting and arresting endeavour.’
Mat Smith, Documentary Evidence

‘Conveys the freedom of someone penning music with eyes
on the distant horizons rather than the charts.’
Electronic Sound Magazine

‘It’s an exceptionally well-realized, fascinating album.’
Chris Conaton, Pop Matters

‘Magnificent and Timeless.’
Valentin Dauchot, La Libre Belgique

‘Sumptuously melodic, particularly moving – an unforgettable sonic roadtrip…
…Hymns for a new generation of dreamers.’
Cédrick Pesqué, Rythmes Croisés

‘It’s a superb album…a sumptuous soundtrack to an imaginary film.’
Didier Zacharie (Le Soir)


Mountains and Plains
Full reviews below, or in this Pressbook

Another interview in Electronic Sound 
This time, about my work with S-Express and Bomb The Bass 

Buy Electronic Sound – Issue 86

Interview in Electronic Sound
Interview about my wonderful label Crammed Discs and Made To Measure imprint,
in which I happen to reveal a teeny bit about my next Stubbleman album…

Buy Electronic Sound – Issue 85 

Great River Road (Miss Kittin Remix)
Check it out here, excellent review in Libération below…

The Blackbird Tapes
‘ It provides us with a lasting, poignant memory of the stillness and quietude of the strangest moment in our collective personal histories,
giving The Blackbird Tapes a profound, moving and universal significance

Review in Documentary Evidence

Live at The Purcell Room
‘A dazzling mechanical travelogue…a futuristic yet emotional journey…
in 2020, be sure to not miss this mesmerising musical experience.’

LIve Review in Jazzwise Magazine

Live At The Purcell Room
‘Nothing short of mesmerising
moving in a plaintive, unexpected way…
..taking on an hypnotic, meditative edge and restless drama.’

Live Review in Documentary Evidence
Read it here

‘It’s a beautifully crafted work…A low-key charmer destined, one suspects, for a long life.’
Review in The Guardian / The Observer

Exclusive edit of ‘Griffith Park’ with the 50th edition of ‘The Wire Tapper’.

There’s an exclusive edit of ‘Griffith Park’ on the 50th edition of ‘The Wire Tapper’, the cover mount CD for The Wire magazine (issue 426, August 2019). It’s also included with the digital edition.

Attached to the cover of every copy of the August 2019 issue of The Wire is a special double CD marking 50 volumes of The Wire’s ongoing series of underground music compilations. Disc one contains the usual Tapper mix of all new tracks from across the musical spectrum covered in the pages of The Wire, while disc two features a selection of exclusive tracks and edits drawn from previous volumes in the series.

It’s a superb album…a sumptuous soundtrack to an imaginary film’
Interview and review in Le Soir

‘It’s an exceptionally well-realized, fascinating album…
…and fans of post-rock would do well to give Stubbleman a shot. 8/10′
Review in Pop Matters

Musician Pascal Gabriel moved from Belgium to London in 1979 and has been involved in the city’s electronic music scene for nearly that long. He’s recorded, produced, or mixed everyone from Wire and Can to Goldfrapp and Erasure. He’s detoured into the pop scene and has Kylie Minogue and Dido on his resumé as well. But Stubbleman is a different sort of project for him. It’s an instrumental album of music that combines analog instruments, electronic sounds, and field recordings. And it’s fascinating.

Gabriel took a long road trip across the United States, making field recordings along the way. Mountains and Plains is the result, 11 tracks, each named for a location in the United States, and weighted towards the wide-open spaces of the American West. The press materials talk a lot about how this album was influenced by 1970s ambient music, and that’s in there. But these pieces have more direction than much ambient, with a bit of drive to them and often include strong melodic figures. Imagine 2000s post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and Sigúr Rós, but insert a piano as the lead instrument, and you have a good idea where Stubbleman is coming from.

Those two bands get referred to, intentionally or not, in a pair of the record’s earlier tracks. “Highway Sixty-Something” refers to the other forgotten U.S. Highways that don’t have the reputation of Route 66 but were also replaced by the Interstate system. A melancholy piano theme opens the song with quietly pulsing chords and a simple melody. Slow bass accompanies the chords and gives the song a low end. After a minute of this, a high piano arpeggio softly joins the main theme. Then a pulsing electronic tick, a metal xylophone countermelody, and other sounds build up into a crescendo of music until, just before the three-minute mark, the song explodes into a pounding drum solo. That’s some classic Explosions in the Sky stuff right there, and Stubbleman does it well.

Abiquiu,according to the liner notes, is a remote town in Northern New Mexico, with the area famously photographed by nearby resident Georgia O’Keeffe. Stubbleman’s take on the location involves a glacially moving piano melody, all half notes and whole notes, with quiet whirring and pulsing background noise serving as the song’s only accompaniment for its first three minutes. Eventually, other sounds begin to crop up in the background, soft and melodic, but that slow piano remains front and center for the whole piece. This sounds like Sigúr Rós at their most melodic and most restrained.

The rest of Mountains and Plains doesn’t hit those references quite as hard, but that doesn’t make it any less engaging. “Badlands Train”, inspired by the endless drive across the Texas plains, often alongside railroad tracks for hundreds of miles, is intentionally repetitive and very cool. A simple repeating bassline sets the feeling of motion at the beginning and is joined by a little low-end piano echo. An equally simple six-note piano figure serves as the song’s main melody, but as it goes, Stubbleman adds in various departures from that melody that keep it from being as repetitive as the actual driving across Texas. The song never rushes, even as electronic beeps arrive later on. The simple bassline continues inexorably, moving gradually along at the same pace for the full five and a half minutes.

While the piano dominates the proceedings for most of the record, there are moments when Stubbleman emphasizes other sounds. “Taos Twilight” swirls slowly through a haze of ambient sounds. A bassline here, a guitar effect there, subtle synthesizers in the background, and horn-like sounds creeping in the back half of the track combine to give the song a feeling of warmth that belies Gabriel’s description of snow melting at twilight. “Griffith Park”, on the other hand, recalls the synth-based music that Gabriel worked on in the early 1980s. Pulsing synth sounds undergird the slow piano melody that defines the first half of the track. But as the song continues, more synths arrive as Los Angeles passes from dawn to morning to afternoon to evening and into the night. Once the sun goes down, the track gradually loses its momentum and its wash of sounds, leaving just the piano and a pair of synth lines at the end.

Elsewhere, Stubbleman prioritizes melody over atmosphere. “South 61 West 14” is relentlessly melodic, as its multiple bits each have their own riff, from the blooping high background synths to the laser beam effects later on to the main keyboard line to the bass. This one even uses drums to push the straightforward beat of the song.

Overall, though, Mountains and Plains prizes its atmospheric sounds. It’s just that Stubbleman has a strong enough command of melodic songwriting that he doesn’t expect the atmosphere to carry a piece of music by itself. So even “Longwood”, whose description is all about the eerie atmosphere of the titular unfinished plantation mansion, has a solid core melody. And opener “Moonstone Beach”, named after a California location, could theoretically be almost all the crashing waves heard in the background and synth ambiance. But no, it has a simple and compelling piano melody and improvisations. Pascal Gabriel has an exceptionally well-realized album on his hands here, and fans of post-rock would do well to give Stubbleman a shot. 

‘A veil of emotions, with melancholic rhythms often crowned by epic sweeping surges.’
Review in Libération
(English translation below)

Libération 6-7 April 2019

Stubbleman – The Crazy Driver

In a contemplative album, Pascal Gabriel builds on the soundscape of his American roadtrip.

On the sand of Moonstone Beach, halfway bewteen Los Angeles and San Francisco, Stubbleman read Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur and recorded the sound made by the waves of the Pacific. To get there, he had driven from New York and crossed fifteen states, stopping here and there: a plantation in Mississippi, a snow-covered plateau in Colorado, a run-down New Mexico town, beside the railroad which crosses the Badlands, on Highway 61, immortalised by Dylan.

Whenever he stopped, he took photographs and set his field recorder to capture the sounds around him. The eleven recordings, and the impressions he gathered along the way, constitute the raw material for Mountains and Plains, an album whose ambient nature reflects the slowness with which these American panoramas slide by, as seen from an automobile on a dead-straight road. A roadtrip is a meditative experience, confirms Stubbleman, alter-ego of composer- producer Pascal Gabriel, someone we knew back in the days before he became so chilled-out. After coming of age as a punk in Belgium, he moved to London and co-wrote the Acid House anthems Beat Dis (Bomb the Bass) and Theme from S- Express (S-Express) in 1988, earning a rightful place in the history of electronic music. Having collaborated with a wide range of artists (Wire, Kylie Minogue, Miss Kittin) throughout his varied career, he has now reinvented himself under a pseudonym through which he can express his true personality.

Stubbleman embroiders the melodies of Mountains and Plains onto a canvas of minimalist piano, hemming his design with threads of modular synthesiser and the tinkling of a toy xylophone. He grabs the bass, guitars and Rhodes to sprinkle stars over the landscape of found sounds collected during his journey. The production, completed with the collaboration of Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Erasure, Indochine), borrows from Brian Eno’s experimentation, but connects with more recent textures of drone, and is hidden beneath a veil of emotions, with melancholic rhythms often crowned by epic sweeping surges. Thirty years after Theme From S-Express, Pascal Gabriel is inviting us to a contemplative reunion, to show us how he has matured. And how we have matured too.

Eric Delhaye / Libération 2019

In depth interview on the making of ‘Mountains and Plains’
Read it in full here

‘Sumptuously melodic, particularly moving – an unforgettable sonic roadtrip…
…Hymns for a new generation of dreamers.’
Review in Rythmes Croisés

STUBBLEMAN – Mountains & Plains
(Crammed Discs)

Intéressons-nous au dernier petit trésor paru en avril sur le label Crammed Discs. Il s’agit de l’album de STUBBLEMAN, alias Pascal Gabriel.
Originaire de Belgique, installé à Londres depuis 1979, ayant joué dans différents groupes de pop expérimentale, il va ensuite devenir producteur et songwriter. À la fin des années 1980, son nom va être associé à deux morceaux emblématiques de la scène techno anglaise : Theme from S’Express (S’EXPRESS) et Beat Dis (BOMB THE BASS).
Il va produire et mixer de nombreux artistes allant de WIRE à CAN en passant par ERASURE, Debbie HARRY ou Kylie MINOGUE. Après des années consacrées à la jungle et à la pop, il revient aujourd’hui à une musique axée sur l’électronique et l’expérimental.
Ce projet fait suite à un long voyage effectué aux USA (de New York à L.A., ce roadtrip dura dix semaines), où Pascal a enregistré une multitude de sons qui vont être utilisés pour l’élaboration de ces onze morceaux, travaillés ensuite dans son studio en France (au pied du Mont Ventoux), et mixés par Gareth JONES ; ce dernier étant connu pour avoir côtoyé DEPECHE MODE, Nick CAVE ou TUXEDOMOON.

Dès la première écoute, cet album a tout pour séduire: la production est bien faite, mettant en avant une musique aux couleurs variées, somptueusement mélodique, très recherchée et particulièrement émouvante. Les compositions forment un roadtrip sonore merveilleux et inoubliable, invitant ainsi l’auditeur à voyager lui aussi à travers les États-Unis, où défilent des paysages grandioses, de vastes déserts, où nous longeons de longues voies ferrées et traversons des villes gigantesques.
Chaque titre renvoie à un endroit spécial, à un souvenir, une histoire en lien avec ce voyage où Pascal a traversé quinze états. Avec lui, nous découvrons les mégalopoles (Griffith Park), le Texas (Badlands Train), une petite ville du Nouveau Mexique (Abiquiù), les grandes routes (et pas seulement les plus mythiques comme la Route 66, avec les titres Highway Sixty Forty ou 61 West 14), le Colorado en hiver (Mesa Snow), ou le célèbre Mississipi (Great River Road) et la Nouvelle Orléans (Piety Wharf).
Cette aventure a fortement marqué le musicien et, de retour de cette expérience enrichissante, il a élaboré ce disque à la palette sonore extraordinaire, où l’émotion est omniprésente et va vous toucher en plein cœur.
Se révélant être une force supplémentaire à ce disque,  Pascal est aussi un multi-instrumentiste aguerri, utilisant divers instruments comme par exemple de la guitare, de la basse, un “toy glockenspiel”, des synthés modulaires, un ARP 2600, un Korg 700 ou un merveilleux piano droit Schimmel.
Nous découvrons ainsi des morceaux doux et puissants où par exemple les notes cristallines du piano,  les ambiances lo-fi, les sons électroniques et autres “field recordings”, ces “sons trouvés” enregistrés au cours de ce périple, créent des instants vraiment poétiques, renouant avec le meilleur de la musique ambient et minimaliste des années 1970, marquée par des personnages comme Brian ENO, Harold BUDD ou Steve REICH.
De nombreux titres comme Moonstone Beach (piano, glockenspiel, ARP 2600, divers sons comme les “vagues du Pacifique”), Highway Sixty Something, Abiquiù (piano, moog, ARP 2600…) ou le final Piety Wharf se dévoilent tels des paysages sonores qui nous envoutent par leurs fragrances reposantes et souvent mélancoliques et où les notes pures et solennelles du piano semblent suspendues dans les airs.

L’ensemble de l’album ne décevra pas les amoureux de belle musique, mais nous ne pouvons pas passer à côté de ce troisième titre, Griffith Park qui sonne très électronique, avec ses boucles tourbillonnantes qui rappellent beaucoup le TANGERINE DREAM de la grande époque. Les synthés modulaires  et les autres instruments utilisés (glockenspiel, piano, guitare Fender Telecaster…) donnent vie à un grand moment d’évasion.
Entièrement instrumental, ce disque parlera certainement aux amateurs d’ambient music et des artistes précédemment cités, mais aussi à ceux qui écoutent des groupes comme QLUSTER (par ce mélange de sons électroniques et d’un certain classicisme minimaliste) ou MOGWAI (l’envolée sur Mesa Snow conviendrait parfaitement à leurs albums Happy Songs for Happy People ou Mr Beast ouvrant sur l’intense Auto Rock) voire même peut-être GODSPEED YOU ! BLACK EMPEROR (sans les interventions guitaristiques d’Efrim bien entendu !).

Nous apprécions cette alternance de passages “ambient”  grandement méditatifs et mélancoliques, de simples ritournelles électroniques flamboyantes, de musique électro rythmée et d’hymnes pour une nouvelle génération de rêveurs.

Remercions Pascal d’avoir façonné une œuvre d’art musicale pleine de poésie et de délicatesse.

Cédrick Pesqué

Focus/Vif Magazine
Review and lnterview in Focus / Vif

‘…This album is a highly accomplished body of work…
it is a highly personal, evocative, thought-provoking, affecting and arresting endeavour.’
Review in Documentary Evidence.

‘An understated subtle success’ 
Review in Harmonic Distortion.

‘Conveys the freedom of someone penning music with eyes
on the distant horizons rather than the charts.’

Review in Electronic Sound Magazine

‘Badlands Train’ is the ‘Chosen One’ on The Alternative 9
Album review

‘Magnificent and Timeless’
Review in La Libre Belgique

Front View Magazine
Album review

The Vinyl Factory
Album review

‘As if Durutti Column, Harold Budd or This Mortal Coil
did a Wim Wenders Soundtrack…Don’t miss it!’
Album review in Foutrarque

March 25th, 2019
‘Badlands Train’ is available online, as of today, March 25th.
It’s a free pre-release for everyone – one month before the album is out!
There is also a short film to accompany it.

Release date for ‘Mountains and Plains’
The release date for ‘Mountains and Plains’ is April 26th, 2019.
You can pre-order it now
Download, CD, or in a beautiful gatefold-sleeve 180gm Vinyl
via this link.
Both physical formats come in a gatefold with inserts and additional photographs.

For future freebies, sample instruments etc.
or just to say hello and stay in touch,
please register on the mailing list.

Pre-release news

It’s been an exciting week:
We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Crammed Discs and Mute Song to the Stubbleman family!

‘Mountains and Plains’ mastered by the mighty Graeme Durham at The Exchange

The awesome Gareth Jones mixing ‘Mountains and Plains’ at The Art Lab





Categories: Stubbleman