Murmer - Tether [The Helen Scarsdale Agency - 2023]
The contact microphone never seems to properly disengage itself from its environment the way that other field recording devices do – booms, mics in the wild, etc. – which makes manipulating its results all the more challenging. For how to disarticulate the vibratory from the vibration, the sound wave from the pulse that it measures and generates? There is never quite enough distance to squeeze between source and signal, and that is the strength of the two, long compositions that make up Tether by Murmer (Patrick McGinley). Whatever we hear, and how that hearing places us in turn, is routed through the rather humble appearance of metal objects in a field – fences, poles, and other intrusions within a statically charged landscape, which continue to draw Murmer's attention over the past three decades of work.
It is enough to say that these devices form a kind of stubborn attachment for the contact microphones who amplify their otherwise inaudible echolalia, sending and scrambling all at once, wrangling and churning out an invisible miasma of noise and disturbance. What makes Tether so compelling, with or without intimate knowledge of its source material, is the way that McGinley apes and doubles this hazy field of sonic phenomena, not just playing back to us its effects, but miming and reproducing its logic and structures. How truly remarkable, then, in the closing minutes of the final cut, "maad", that a subtle but unmistakeable pattern emerges, as if a stringed instrument were fashioned from the slow-moving swarm around it, a brief interlude, or the beginning of a language that Tether first teaches us how to recognize.
For fans of field recording, open composition with contact mics, and anyone who wonders what those machines are talking about while we sleep. Very highly recommended!. For more info