x-ray four: Mats Gustafsson - Piano Mating LP


Ultra-clear 180g heavyweight LP with screenprinted artwork + download

They sound like two holes puncturing the fabric of reality - holes that disobey time and space; black holes then, where you can poke your head through and see what is really going on behind the curtain.

The two side-long pieces of Piano Mating by Mats Gustafsson are incredibly pure, simple-sounding and slowly-ascending drones that feel convincingly like tractor beams for the soul.

Is this spiritual music for heathens? It happened because we asked Mats to compose an album using an instrument he'd never recorded with before. He came back with one of the most bizarre pieces of kit ever - the Dubreq Pianomate. A deliciously odd device from the manufacturers of the Stylophone, which turns your nan's living room piano into, well, a giant Stylophone!

Mats doesn't hook his up to a piano though. Instead he manipulates the machine on its own to wring out these strange, expressive sonic prayers.

“‘Microtonal electronic maracas is perhaps an apt description? Ha ha!" Mats laughs of the unique sound of his Pianomate. "It is just a totally different beast compared to anything else I ever played.

"The Piano Mate does whatever it wants really. But I can control pitch and volume and detune it while playing. The microtonal clusters that it offers are highly inspirational to work with and really something that is quite hard to achieve on the saxophones.

“And I just love the sound of it. That color really kicks my mind and ass."

Compositionally, Mats let the unique restrictions and limited tonal palette of the Pianomate guide him, rather than him attempt to bend the unwieldy instrument to his will.

"Making this music was a lot about creating a specific state of mind. Letting the music take over," he explains. "Letting the sounds create the music. Slow. Listening for it and going for it. Never pushing it. Hard to describe, actually. And of course, part of the mystery of it all."

Although he admits he rarely listens back to his recordings once he's finished with them, Mats says that Piano Mating has brought something new and indefinable to his iconoclastic music:

"I really hear very different things every time I listen back to these recordings. I found them still very surprising and, funnily enough, very inspirational to me. In my sax playing, I get a lot of inspiration from listening to the piano mate.

"I love my Piano Mate! – there should be one in every household!!!”

Praise for Piano Mating:

"Piano Mating proves that Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records may be one of the most exciting, individualistic, fearless labels currently in operation. Currently selling vinyl, tape, and (beautiful looking) t-shirt subscriptions, the label has shown time and time again that they aren’t afraid to deal with the unknown. Make the most of them, they’re worth every penny of investment." - When The Horn Blows

"It would be easy for Gustafsson to rest on his already-broad bag of tricks at this stage in his development: after all, it takes a special panache to parlay a career in outer-limits improvisation into work with both Sonic Youth and Neneh Cherry, while still stopping in between to play with a huge grip of important players in his more immediate sphere, so he must be consistently doing something right already. Piano Mating may be a short diversion from this business is usual, but it's also a reminder that with Gustafsson, business is never quite usual." - The Quietus

"It would be deceptive to describe Mats Gustafsson’s Piano Mating simply as a piece of music, when the listening experience more resembles the construction of a tapestry made of electric threads in a constant flux of motion and color; If you squint your mind’s eye, you can make out that the image Gustafsson has presented is some kind of extraterrestrial baptism, where a ritualistic drone is mingled with a tense wonder of the unfamiliar. The album is as find as rare and exciting as the Dubreq Piano Mate itself." - Monofesto

"These two long pieces flatten me against the wall of my living room. They are viruses overloading my hearing, dismantling my sense of acoustic placement. For the final five minutes of the first piece, it’s entirely unclear how many of the drones are generated by Gustaffson, and how many are internal echoes rebounding off the inside of my own head. Three dimensions collapse into two dimensions. And then one. Piano Mating is an imposition that I am forced to deal with. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it." - ATTN Magazine

"Mats Gustafsson is either the greatest artist, the greatest anti-artist, or the greatest non-artist to wield a Piano Mate. I haven’t made up my mind yet. Well, no, cross out non-artist. This taps a reaction in me – the still air, a sense of calm, mingled with raw, unmediated desire. Not for anything in particular, mind – just a burning, below the gut, that knows no object." - Collapse Board

"Whenever we see an e-mail from X Ray Records and Blue Tapes announcing new music we get excited. A boutique label releasing some astoundingly original work from some excellent experimental artists, it’s fair to say we’ve found pleasure in most of their catalogue. Experimentation like Piano Mating takes time and talent and would certainly not sound as beautiful without the work put into it." -SCRZ Magazine

"The sound invades your pores, crawls under your skin and disorients the senses. Heard at low volume, the sounds are almost comforting. Twist the knob and a sort of psychosis ensues. Piano Mating is like a reversible jacket, one side for church, the other is suitable for rampage." - All About Jazz

"A bizarre beauty, Piano Mating holds secret wealth for those who choose to enter its unsettling realm." - The Thin Air

"Saxophone motherfucker Mats Gustafsson is a master of transcendental noise, and his place in the pantheon of this cosmically-inclined blog is inarguable." - 20 Jazz Funk Greats