By Blake Parker
In the second independent release by Mathieu Karsenti, Cello Prayers, each short form track closely resembles the creative arc of an artist in the act of painting. Songs begin with singular evocative melodies, and then pause to explore other melodies or instruments, almost as a painter would begin with a few brushstrokes of one color before changing brushes to add a different texture or pallet of colors. Much the same, the pieces of Cello Prayers evolve over the course of each one in such a way that by the end, a rich and emotionally full painting is completed from the individual parts.
Cello Prayers, though offering only six tracks and seldom few longer than three minutes, accomplishes what some albums struggle to do in dozen-track albums with songs well above the five-minute mark: immerse the listener in a sense of place. The vulnerable and crisp bowings of the cello mixed with the glittering atmospheric backdrop of the accompanying instruments and electronic musical touches plunge the listener into magical landscapes, dark and intimidating conflicts, raw emotional connections, and elated victories, all without the concrete substance of a storyline itself. Paired with any substantial story form, especially cinema, Karsenti’s works clearly elevate the existing drama. However, on its own the music of Cello Prayers leaves us with only the abstractions, begging for a story to be told alongside them. This in itself creates yet another element of richness within Karsenti’s music, though one much harder to define.
As an adventure into the possibilities of music perhaps meant for film but choosing to omit it, Cello Prayers succeeds in creating a movie all on its own, and further allows the stories that lie within to be bent – even sculpted entirely – by the listener themselves. It is sure, though, that the journey taken by those who have the privilege to hear Cello Prayers is anything but idle; indeed, the gentle strings and curious melodies invite and even implore listeners to come take part.