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CD Feature/ Murmer: "In their homes and in their heads"

img  Tobias
The first time I listened to “In their home and in their heads”, I played it six times in a row. It was dark and I couldn’t see which side was which, but that did not deter me. Sometimes, I would even listen to a side twice, before flipping the Vinyl over, only waiting for the motor of the record player to stop before setting it back into motion again. Outside, it was snowing and I was watching the wind blow thick, wet plumes of white crystals through the streets in the sodium light of the lanterns, while the music carried me far away. It doesn’t often snow in the midst of March in this town and when it does, it mostly doesn’t last for long. That night, however, things just did not want to end.

Maybe that scene is a suitable metaphor for the entire oeuvre of Patrick Mcginley. As I stood by the window, I read through his biography, digging myself deeper into his past, wondering where he was heading with this music which seemed to prefer going back all the time: Mcginley moved to Paris in 1996, studying theatre and taking his first steps into the world of sound art. A prolonged stint in London followed in 1998, where he co-founded “framework” and set up a weekly show on the city’s premiere experimental radio station Resonance FM.

More and more, his interests turn towards the hidden sound worlds underneath the immediate threshold of day-today consciousness, towards acoustic phenomena filtered out by the brain or deemed too insignificant. The same year his broadcasting work picks up, he releases his first album, chosing the project name “Murmer”. From then on, the momentum can not be stopped: Over the next five years, six more full-lengths will follow.

“In their homes and in their heads” is by far the most concise work Mcginley has ever produced, shorter even than a former Mini-CD publication on the Ground Fault label in 2003. And yet, it feels like a full-fledged summary of his aims. Maybe the limitatations of the format have, as with other acts, worked as a catalyst on this occasion, forcing him to condense his entire vision into a single, compressed and yet infinitely wide piece of music. Or maybe the material at hand just effortlessly fell into place. If you increase the framerate of the brain, the hands of the clock are sedated and al processes run at dimished speed – that is what appears to be happening here.

“In his home” opens with an open atmospheric amalgam, a faint hum inside a greenhouse, growing in electrical charge and volume, picking up the sound of cymbals tapped so quickly that only metallic resonance remains. Sharp metallic crackles form against the translucent skin of the drone, before everything collapses into a white silence. The listener is allowed a few seconds to compose himself, before the music hits him anew, this time with an even more urgent acuteness and as a tightly packed sheet of pulsating sound, microscopic particles screaming like a swarm of angry bees. The attack subsides a little bit, remains on a level of still tremendous intensity, then disappears completely again with a single click – did someone turn on the light?

“In her head” is even more wondrous and the cause of my addiction. The needle hits the Vinyl and the piece already seems to have started, placing the listener directly in a slightly uncomfortable, unreal surrounding. In the deep, volcanoes are errupting, in the air, northern lights are singing like syrens on acid. A moment of peace ensues, the elements brought to rest as tonal frequencies oscillate at different speeds, cancelling each other out in an instant of serene bliss. Individual layers come to the fore like bubbles of boiling water rising to the surface in slow motion. Everything seems to stay the same, while changing continously in minute nuances, fading away in waves.

Great craftmanship is one part of the equation, otherwordly arranging the other: Tension archs are warped, as suggestions are made more meaningful than actions and anything from complete breakdowns to subtle shifts can serve to structure a composition. Even more interestingly, Patrick Mcginley stimulates a lively exchange between his drones and field recordings from “Sam’s appartment in Paris and Tamara’s Secret Garden in London”.

Both act in accordance with the other, getting louder as the other increases its volume and quieting down at the same time. It is never quite clear, if one of the two dominates the other or whether they are both bound by a third force, to whose invisible rules they adhere.

As I increasingly immerse myself through repated listens, I realise that it is probably this distinct feature which makes me return to the music again and again. Mcginley’s sounds appeal to the visual side of the brain, they move in peculiar patterns which can not be decyphered with rational analysis. “In their home and in their heads” presents the listener with a complete world, but leaves it up to him to make out its rules – a generous gesture, which both mystifies and demystifies his work.

The fact that there is no single solution, no final conclusion or result means that each return is a fresh one. It is till snowing outside. I press “play” once more.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Murmer/Patrick Mcginley
Homepage: Drone Records

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