Press

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


Buy this album in 180g Vinyl / CD / DL here

    

Stubbleman will be performing
‘Mountains and Plains’ Live for his London Premiere
at the Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London,
20 November 2019, 7:45pm
BUY TICKETS


Mountains and Plains
Full reviews below.

‘It’s an exceptionally well-realized, fascinating album…
…and fans of post-rock would do well to give Stubbleman a shot. 8/10′
Wow! Thank you very much Chris Conaton for this great 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. 

Excellent, in-depth interview on the making of ‘Mountains and Plains’
by Mat Smith for Documentary Evidence
(Click here for full interview)

Focus/Vif Magazine, 9 Mai 2019
Merci beaucoup Philippe Cornet for this splendid review in Focus / Vif!
(Translation coming shortly!)

‘…This album is a highly accomplished body of work…
it is a highly personal, evocative, thought-provoking, affecting and arresting endeavour.’
Thank you so much Mat Smith for this superb review in Documentary Evidence.


‘An understated subtle success’ 
Splendid, perceptive review of ‘Mountains and Plains’ in Harmonic Distortion.
Thank you @DistortHarmonic!

4 Stars in The Guardian!
This is one brilliant review, thank you so much Neil!


Splendid review, published in Libération
Thank you so very much for listening, Eric!
(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

Electronic Sound Magazine review
Thanks to Electronic Sound Magazine for the excellent review in issue 52!

‘Badlands Train’ is the ‘Chosen One’ on The Alternative 9
‘Chosen One’ on The Alternative 9 – Thank you so much for this perceptive review!

Preview in Front View Magazine
Excellent preview in Front View Magazine, thanks!

‘Mountains and Plains’ in The Vinyl Factory
Many thanks to Gabriela Helmet at The Vinyl Factory for this great introduction!

‘Mountains and Plains’ in Cast The Dice
Big thank you to Cast The Dice for this excellent preview!

‘Mountains and Plains’ in Concert Monkey
Many thanks to Concert Monkey for this very nice introduction!

‘As if Durutti Column, Harold Budd or This Mortal Coil
did a Wim Wenders Soundtrack…Don’t miss it!’
Excellent review in Foutraque – Thank you!

 

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.
Enjoy!

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