MAGUIRE / LA BERGE – Three Cities


The cassette is slowly but surely returning to prominence, primarily in non-commercial musical areas. Three Cities, a 100-copy limited edition, represents a firm warning against the bad idea of throwing away your old decks, and an invitation to keep them clean and functional.

Phil Maguire describes his own Verz as a “quiet music imprint”, but these four tracks with Anne La Berge – a bona fide researcher-cum-sensible instrumentalist human composite – reveal an organic subsurface populated by a considerable amount of noises, pulses and instinctive fragments. In that regard, the work seems to follow a conceptual/dynamic arc of sorts, leading the listener along various states of intuitive discernment as the sonic twists are gradually increased.

The first episode “Duluth” is also the longest. Beginning with whispered echoing harmonics from La Berge’s flute, it develops through a progressive expansion of its vibrational force as Maguire’s analog synthesizers start rattling our head’s bones. The atmosphere turns from relatively ethereal to discreetly ominous; think Eliane Radigue and Thomas Lehn perking up the ears to uncanny murmurs in a pre-earthquake setting. The contrast between the intensity of the subsonic matter and the sweet-tempered reverberations emitted by the silver tube is striking, the “inside impact” of the whole rather impressive.

The shorter duos (“Yoker”, “Cloquet” and “Duluth Coda”) summon up additional ghosts of erstwhile “avantgarde”, employing alternative types of processing and fragmentation of the overall resonance while retaining their authority on the audience’s psychophysical responses. Although the sense of constant flow is still very present, there is room for elements more closely related to the common perception of free improvisation: atonally shamanistic melodic shards, prominent dissonant emissions, brain-stimulating interferences all mingle in an outlandish harmony.

There are interesting methods to fill silent gaps without unserviceable verbal explanations; Maguire and La Berge embrace that expressive model. If one’s bright enough, the numerous signifiers comprised by the joint action will be spotted almost immediately.

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