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Saturation Velocity
A Teenage Dream [28:46]
Sade auf Kashmir [21:02]
Keith Kirchoff (piano)
Bryan Holt (cello)
rec. 2019, Loud Mouse Studios, Toronto (A Teenage Dream); Haro Street Studios, Toronto, Canada
ALBANY TROY1843 [49:47]

I last came across MC Maguire with his Nothing Left to Destroy album on the innova label (review) and, intrigued by the teaser samples of audio that were offered online, was happy to find this disc amongst my monthly review stack. This is the kind of music that doesn’t really belong on a ‘classical music’ review page, but nor would you expect to see it anywhere near jazz or pop. Experiencing the first few minutes of A Teenage Dream and I found my main point of reference was Frank Zappa, so if you can imagine something which has at least some Venn diagram overlap with ‘Jazz from Hell’, an album by no means as aversive as its title suggests, then you might have some idea as to whether this will be the kind of thing you want to explore.

Maguire works with detailed sonic canvasses, and while there is an organic DJ feel to these pieces there are also plenty of harmonic and thematic relationships that give them structure and direction. A Teenage Dream is based on four songs by Katy Perry, but you don’t need to know the originals to appreciate this piece. Maguire uses CPU or computer to manipulate his material, and the solo piano exists in a space that is inhabited by constantly transforming textures, including groovy beats and spectral vocals. “The structure of the work consists of 4 large murals (quadriptych) each inside a Bergian forward/retrograde ordering, that formally connects/overlaps the movements… [creating] a Groundhog Day of recapitulations not unlike the feeling of a dystopic rondo form.” With “300 tracks of audio, midi instruments, and a mountain of software plugins” you can be sure that there is never a dull moment in this piece’s near 30 minute span.

Sade auf Kashmir has as its concept “the sonic intertwining of Sade’s No Ordinary Love with Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.” While there is an almost lounge-bar atmosphere to the opening of the ‘pop’ tinged A Teenage Dream, there is a more raw ‘rock’ edge to the first minutes of Sade auf Kashmir, the cello in higher registers adding its own intensity to an already well-stocked sonic palette. This intertwining creates its own theme, the layers of which are then “packed into a traditional theme and variation surface, the theme being followed by nine variations (inside three movements), followed by a return to the original ‘tonic’ theme/tempo.” Sade auf Kashmir has a more abstract feel to its predecessor on this album, but again there is no lack of musical ‘happening’; the sounds never lingering too long in one place, but at the same time not moving so quickly as to bamboozle you or knock you away from a logical narrative line. You can easily find yourself lost in this vast and not too discomforting space, your mind always intrigued to know where it will be taken next.

So yes, this is a bit of an adventure and one you may not appreciate if the idea of moving beyond Bach and Bruckner brings you out in a rash of hives. MC Maguire’s fans will however appreciate this pair of pieces greatly, and I’m sure their commercial availability will gather this remarkable artist more well-deserved attention. If you fancy something different to that oxymoronic genre of ‘the usual avant-garde’ then I would certainly urge you to give it a try.

Dominy Clements

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