Return to LV-426 with Stephan Mathieu’s Before Nostromo

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“Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho’ that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
‘Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.”
– Edgar Allan Poe

Of what do we dream before life-changing trauma? Do our subconscious fears manifest as ghouls to torment us while our brains lie in thrall to REM sleep cycles? Do we find ourselves running through greener pastures, remembering halcyon days long washed away like tears in the rain? Do we think of the future and the life-shattering events about to unfold?

Ridley Scott’s 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien is a powerful examination of the human condition, one that juxtaposes the peace of the inner subconscious against the violent reality of nature. In its opening scene, the crew members of the commercial spacecraft Nostromo are sleeping peacefully in stasis, perhaps dreaming of loved ones or joyful memories back home on Earth, before the violent alarm claxon of their onboard computer MOTHER awakens them regarding a distress signal from a wrecked ship on the barren planetoid LV-426. The joy of discovery and the alluring mystery of the unknown beckon the crew to the puzzling ruins of an alien vessel. It is on that vessel that the crew unwittingly obtains a violent stowaway, one that, like a gnawing stress, insidiously creeps into their waking dreams and transforms them into nightmares.

Stephan Mathieu’s erudite electronic composition, a commissioned sound pavilion piece entitled Before Nostromo, is an investigation into these dreams before they succumb to the violent terror of the bloodthirsty intruder. Composed on piano, gong, and shortwave radio filtered through tape loops and other electronic manipulation, this homage to the sonic landscape of Alien plumbs the depths of Morpheus’s realm as the intrepid crew of the Nostromo hurtle toward the lurking fate that awaits them on LV-426. Split into nine tracks, the composition explores the sleeping thoughts, emotions, fears, and aspirations of each of the stasis-bound passengers on the doomed ship as well as the final violation of the xenomorph in the ninth track.

Each track is masterfully constructed to imbue a dream-like fuzziness and blur to the entire album; shimmering electronics manifest for some passengers, such as Ripley, in the form of a warm embrace. For others, like Dallas, the droning whir and insectile tappings convey a sense of anxiety. Each track takes you to a deep place of contemplation as you being to wonder, and indeed experience, how each crew member felt leading up LV-426. Does the android Ash, whose dream manifests as a cold, cyclical whir accented by a cascade of dropping keys, speculate as to what it would mean to be human, to feel desire and guilt and shame and jealousy and betrayal? Beneath the flickering keys that burn like distant stars, does the cold precision of the ambiance and the undercurrent of crackling static hint at the treachery to come? Perhaps Ash, like Conrad’s erstwhile Nostromo, was corrupted by the dream of a different, better life.

Mathieu’s composition is a deeply cerebral work, one that burrows into the recesses of your mind, planting seeds for you to discover upon your next journey through the gates of slumber. It is a multi-faceted and elegant work, much like the xenomorph itself; it’s all smooth contours and feminine curves punctuated by violent, yet subtle acts of aggression and malice. The ill intent, like our deepest fears and regrets that eventually manifest in dreams, rarely lingers on the surface of this music. Instead, like the xenomorph it lurks beneath shadowy key shifts and seething textures. Even the album art, what appears to be some sort of stone headdress, is a work of finesse and craftmanship that belies a violence in the edges. The power of this work lies not in its bravado and immediacy but in the cold tension it creates. Its menace, and indeed beauty, as there is something beautiful in the primal allure of bestial aggression and survival, is in the way it slowly baptizes you into a deeper state of slumber, unearthing your deepest fears and tensions long after you believed them dead and gone.

In this head-space, no one can hear you scream.

Before Nostromo was commissioned by ZKM | Institute for Music and Acoustics Karlsruhe for their 46.12 channel sound pavillon The Morning Line, presented here as a dedicated stereo mix with an additional coda. You can purchase it in a lossless digital format on Bandcamp or acquire it in vinyl format from Mathieu’s own Schwebung platform.

(Photos VIA, VIA, and VIA)

  • I can’t enjoy this at work because people are talking and my headphones don’t cancel noise 🙁

    • CyberneticOrganism

      #randallthorproblems #prayforrandall

    • My entire life resumed on a comment.

      The good part is that I developed a magic spell that makes me go into a semi-meditative state to concentrate in the music rather than the disgusting black speech that surrounds me.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Malandro-canceling headphones

    • Boss the Ross

      I’m not even allowed headphones.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I can’t listen to music while I work. I have to listen to the awful station that Old Navy plays.

        • Boss the Ross

          Ugh, okay, you have it worse.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Agreed. I’m stuck there until I get another job and the station they play is awful.

  • Dreams again… I had a dream last night that I was part of a metal festival in which members of the audience were selected by this cult leader to be tortured on stage while bands play their set. I was chosen and was ultimately mutilated beyond belief. I can’t remember specific details exactly but I do remember the leader pushing sharp long needles through my body and then twisting and bending them. I haven’t had a mutilation dream in sometime. Shit was fucked.

    • Dubs

      Maybe you should lay off the black metal before bed.

      • That’s some crazy talk Brorge W. Bush

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        HEY!

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Go home now. Write that shit down. Assemble blastbeats. Make an album out of it.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I actually wrote a song about the dream I talked about here. I will never record it.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          See, now you have to record it.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Not happening. This is one thing I won’t record. I’ve been sticking to it for a while and I will stick with it for as long as I live.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Or… you could record it.

    • COAL ROLL

      Sounds pretty awesome tho

      • It was.

        • COAL ROLL

          every now and again when I have crazy dreams, I sometimes wake up out of them like fuck! and then try to go back to sleep back into that dream. it never really works

          • I’ve had continued dreams before. It’s rare, but it has occurred.

    • that’s not how those European black metal fests go?

      • Sir Tapir The Based

        That’s regular in Finland.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Some man’s nightmare is another man’s dream.

      • Dreams like this fascinate me. Usually my dreams of mutilation and violence tend to be super bizarre too. Like something from the movie The Cell.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      I had a dream last night that I curb stomped the guy that stole my money at the gym. Best one I’ve had in ages.

      • Damn, see I never have dreams of killing or hurting anyone else (That would be rad). I’m always the victim in my dreams.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Kind of a metaphor for real life, Tyree? You want talk about it, in my van?

        • I’ve had both, and the dreams where I’m the murderer were way worse

        • Janitor Jim Duggan

          I’ve had one dream about it that I mentioned above. I’ll never do it in real life though.

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          I’ve never actually been a victim of anything in my dreams. But I’ve seen some weird fucking shit in my dreams. I’ve written down some of the surrealistic visuals I’ve experienced.
          And I occasionally suffer from sleep paraysis as well. Scared the shit out of me when I was young, but I got used to it.

        • I barely remember my dreams, but the defense against malandros entering my home at night always stick with me.

          I remember I had a very vivid dream of myself breaking a malandro’s face with a metallic tube. And another one that I chocked one while he was trying to tie up my mom with ropes. And another one in which I have a machete and slashed two guys.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Those damn malandros.

        • I’ve only had one and it involved shooting people in the Iraq war. Very vivid, graphic and I went home and partied in the same dream.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I had a dream once where I was dancing with a girl I used to know to know. The song playing in the background was something by Roxy Music. I proceeded to have sex with her and then while we were laying there afterwards I slit her throat and then shot myself in the head. It was one of the most horrifying dreams I’ve ever had.

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          Well, at least you actually banged that girl in your dream. Everytime I’m about to bang some spankin’ hot chick in one of my dreams, I wake up. Incredibly frustrating.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            The murder part horrifies me to this day. The worst part is I know who the person I had this dream about. We were friends for quite some time. I can’t bring myself to talk about it. We stopped talking after I had this dream but for different reasons.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Dreams are some weird shit. Sometimes I actually think they can predict the end of something. When I was young I used to have this dream that always started in a different way, but always ended the same. It started in a swimming pool, on a beach…different locations where there was a pool of water to dive into. It always ended with me diving into the water and while I was underwater, suddenly an eyeless dog swam past me. The dog looked like my grandparents’ dog at the time. My grandparents died in a car accident not too long after I experienced the last sortlike dream. The dog was still alive though.
            Weird shit.

    • I had a dream last week that I won $1.5M. Very disappointed when I woke up.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      My dreams always boring and mundane as fuck. Take last night for instance. I dreamed that I was record shopping with a friend of mine. That’s it.

      • I had a dream that someone stole my record collection once. Walked in my house after work and all of my music was gone. Now that’s a nightmare.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Dude, that’s horrifying!!!

      • Stanley

        Are you sure you were dreaming?

  • Boss the Ross

    Tommy Pons’ piece “Caught Somewhere on LV-426”

    • Eliza

      *drools*

      • Boss the Ross

        I met the guy and have a signed print. Pretty cool dude, with some rad art.

        • Eliza

          I just looked up some of his artwork and I like it. His sense of design is really cool.

          • Boss the Ross

            Yes, i really dig it.
            Also his largw amount of Iron Maiden work makes me happy.

    • Scrimm

      Awesome!

      • Boss the Ross

        I freaked the hell out when I saw this piece. Luckily, Mr. Pons was equally as excitable.

  • Boss the Ross

    This album sounds amazing, I can’t wait to give it a listen.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Excellent find Dubs, I’ve been craving some new noise/drone

    • Dubs

      Ha, you were the first person of whom I thought when I found it.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Sweet! If it wasn’t such a damn nice day up here I’d sink into it immediately.

  • Guacamole Jim

    This is some weird and entirely awesome shit, Dubs. It’s what I’d imagine a space ship to sound like, just in its operation, out in the coldness of space. I’ve often batted around an idea for a space story that takes place on a cargo ship past its prime, and certain parts of the ship lack proper insulation from the coldness of space — this is what I imagine those parts sounding like.

    Also, “In this head-space, no one can hear you scream” was excellent.

    • Yeah Dubs you should be feeling quite fat and saucy for that line

      • Dubs

        I’m a little expanded, to be honest.

  • Dubs:

    • CyberneticOrganism

      “Smell my glove, brother. Go on, we’ve all done it, it’s a rite of manhood.”
      – Joey DeMaio

      • there’s a picture from the ASOT Pleasure Slave photoshoot of us smelling Nina’s glove. It’s quite… evocative

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        This made me think of Spinal Tap.

  • Guacamole Jim

    I’m pretty sure that album art is a decorated moose antler, not a headdress.

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starshit Toilet ov Hell. It’s continuing mission: to explore music’s strange new sub-genres; to seek out new bands and new lolbuttz; to bodly go where no blog has been before!

  • COAL ROLL
  • Pentagram Sam

    This sounds like one of the most interesting things I’ve yet to hear. Gonna make sure fo sho I give it a whirl after work. The concept itself is fascinating and Alien rules

  • Stanley

    Here’s some glorious Black Metal from Quebec. Album comes out next month.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUf0kBbGsIE

    • When are you gonna start writing black metal mondays?

      • Stanley

        I can’t begin to fathom how much work goes into compiling Toilet Tuesday and Tech Death Thursday. I don’t know how you and Spear did/do it. Same goes for all the writers here. A sterling effort is involved, of which I’m lacking. Also, we have Ultimate Satan for BM!

        • Dubs

          I dunno if it’s all sterling. I wrote this post while sick the other night.

          • Stanley

            In which case you deserve even more props. Most people would have called in sick.

        • Which has been lacking lately.

        • Yea that’s why I stopped doing TDT. It was burning me out on tech death having to anyalyze it for a writeup each week as opposed to just enjoying it.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        Better question: what about jazz fusion Fridays?

        • Stanley

          DOWNVOTED.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Stanley plz! Jazz fusion is the best jazz!

          • Stanley

            Best jazz is best oxymoron.

        • i liek this idear

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I do too.

    • DVRKBEVRD

      do you think the metal community will ever get a break, and artists will just give us all a month to catch up?

      • I feel you man. I decided to switch to digital this year just based off of how many albums I already want. Gotta save money somewhere.

        • DVRKBEVRD

          i feel you, a lot of stuff i want i simply cant get vinyl of, so that helps a little, money-wise.

          but not smoking and not drinking (at the moment) means my collection has already ‘sploded this year

      • Stanley

        No, but this is not coming out till next month so you are ahead of the curve.

        #stanleyslogic

      • if they took a month off, that means the month after would be twice as mexcellent and the whole balance would be thrown off

    • Very epic track dude. Thanks for sharing.

      • Stanley
        • Awesome, love how fast this is without losing the majestic essence. This is a ferocious track. Vocals are the only complaint I have, but the music is flawless. I wonder if these dudes play gigs with Eos. They are from the same area.

          • Stanley

            I don’t see any mention of gigs/tours on their FB page. It would be tricky to pull this stuff off live as a three piece. They would need at least two more guitarists!

          • I did edit my last comment. Vocals on this new track sound fine. Looking forward to this album man. Great shit!

          • Stanley

            Ha ha. I conveniently ignored your comment as I like the vocals.

          • Good call. Wonder if this will get a vinyl pressing. I see pre-orders for CD’s.

          • Stanley

            I guess it’s possible as Eisenwald do put out vinyl releases. I picked up Fluisteraars Dromers from them a while back.

    • RJA

      Have not listened yet – been in my bandcamp wishlist since it came out though.
      Sound pretty sweet to these ears.

      edit: Since it was announced – not came out.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      This is rad.

  • Ambient drone stuff is cool, I just can’t listen to it by its self. Bores the hell out of me. When it’s put to something visually I find it much more enthralling. The score from Alien is a very good example.

    • I use ambient for those… Uh… “Special moments”…

    • Dubs

      I sometimes like it for work. It isn’t “exciting” music, but it does help me get in a creative headspace and sort of tune other things out.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Same. Perfect for working, especially from home when you can play it loud and not worry about coworkers <<<<<<<

        • Dubs

          Finally checking out Azathoth.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            It’s not as distinctive as Cthulhu, but it is darker.

      • I can totally see that. I do enjoy that one ambient album from Leviathan. It puts me in a very unique mental state. Helps when I’m designing artwork and what not. That Summun album does that too.

    • Under the Skin is another movie that comes to mind with a really tense and spacey sounding score.

  • I haven’t been able to get onto bandcamp since yesterday. Send help? (And electrolytes.)

    • Dubs

      Weird. I’m streaming off bc right now.

      • Any idea why that would be? I know, like, -505859058059859 things about this fantastical “Spiderweb” people keep talking about.

        • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

          Delete cookies and restart your browser maybe?

          • I’mm’a delete some cookies later on, if you catch my drift . . .

        • Dubs
          • This worked. Spank you.

          • Dubs

            That’ll cost you extra, honey.

          • That’s fine. I’m flush.

          • DVRKBEVRD

            was it you who was talking about new Cirith Gorgor?

          • Dubs

            i dunno

          • DVRKBEVRD

            its aight

      • never forget
        …the oddity that is Richter

    • Are you on Venezuela?

    • DVRKBEVRD

      i had no problem making purchases last night when you were having problems

      http://hedgewizard.bandcamp.com

  • Eliza

    Excellent writing! I’ve never actually read this deep into Alien, but this made me see it in a completely new light.

    • Dubs

      I can only thank Mr. Mathieu for that.

      • Eliza

        The music is also very good. It stands out in how atmospheric it is, giving off these really creppy vibes, as if you’d be alone in a sea of uncertainty.

        • Dubs

          You nailed it! It’s the same sort of atmosphere that I like in psychological horror movies. The lurking threat is always more terrifying than the murderous slasher.

          • Scrimm

            When both of those are combined right it’s horror bliss

  • Stockhausen

    Man I wish I could get on Bandcamp at work. Excellent write up, dear former leader.

  • Waynecro

    Mighty fine writing, man. Reading this excellent article was a sanity-preserving break from the pile of garbage documents I’ve been trying to edit for work.

    • Dubs

      Thanks, Waynebro

      • Waynecro

        Thank you, man. This fine bit of writing may have prevented some sort of mental implosion.

  • Scrimm

    Pushed play, dog went nuts