What Are The Roots That Clutch
CD / Digital Download
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Available through the Helen Scarsdale Agency: $13.00
It was a cavernous tone that broadcast from a ventilator duct that inspired Patrick McGinley to begin collecting field recordings and working them into his slow-arc compositions. At the time when he heard that particular tone in that particular city at that particular time, he had no gear to recording device on hand. Over the next fifteen years (and counting) McGinley has eased into a peripatetic lifestyle, wandering the European countryside and forests (but never straying too far from the thrum and spark of civilization) in search of the same epiphany with his head rattled to the sound of a cavernous air duct.
Around 1996, McGinley adopted the moniker Murmer for his compositional work; and though his work often steps into the quieter realm of sound construction, much of his field recordings and resultant compositions privilege interference and disturbances that occur within any given sound ecology. Those sounds could be the elusive tone from that ventilator, the polyrhythmic chorus of chirping frogs, the abstracted roar from an Arctic wind tearing across the Black Sea, or the metallic skree from a bowed antenna perched atop a Soviet-era observatory. What Are The Roots That Clutch marks McGinley's first full album in nearly 5 years, but it marks an elegant continuation of his previous album We Share A Shadow. The five chapters of this album can't easily be associated with any specific location; instead McGinley overlaps and crosshatches his field recordings and abstractions into acousmatic passages with ghostly, half-melodic qualities. Even the two unprocessed recordings of the album are impossibly complex in their accretions of sound. McGinley's composed pieces embrace lithe, mysterious drones whose mossy, damp atmosphere perfectly situate with tactile crunches, tactile events, and signal noise generation. Eels and leaches would not be out of place in such an environment; but the subaquatic murk snaps into a hallowed manifestation of ritualized minimalism at the album's finale -- one that LaMonte Young and Angus Maclise might have conjured in 1968 with clattering percussive elements and a hypnotic blur of harmonic drone.
What Are The Roots That Clutch is limited to 400 copies and comes housed with letterpress artwork.
A few words from Murmer about this record:
i don't have much to say about this work conceptually, aside from the cliché 'let the sounds speak for themselves'. like all my works, it was a long time coming, the first elements (the jars recorded with john grzinich, rocking back and forth in the wind on a now-gone metal walkway over disused oil tanks in the village of mooste, estonia) dating back to 2006. other aspects and found sounds followed year by year: the room feedback techniques originally developed for live performance, the treatment of the ringing resonance of a parisien shower stall, the pleasure of sitting by a tartu frog pond on a spring evening, the ghostly and strangely musical mix of medium wave radio signals on a receiver in rural normandy, the powerful wind on a hilltop in forcalquier, the accidental windharp of a fence on the coast near dieppe, the collection of played found objects that brought such a different feeling of performance when i got tired of fiddling with field recordings. it wasn't until this body of sounds and experiences found one another that the work felt complex and whole enough to be 'finished'. even after finishing a work, it usually takes me a year or so of putting away and coming back and relistening to really believe a piece is ready to be given to a public.
the title, i should say, was found through an exercise in purposeful coincidence. i have never been good with titles. after many months with no title for this work i decided to try a technique of direct association: i made a list of the sound sources used (wind frogs feedback snow bathtub radio owl jars fence stuff icepath) and launched an internet search. on the first page of results was a link to a quasi-religious blog with my title as its tagline, that somehow magically had my entire list of sources scattered throughout one post. it took a long time to accept that is was ok to ignore the provenance of the phrase (that is, both personally - the discovered blog - and universally - t.s. eliot's 'the wasteland') and to accept the gift of coincidence and the beauty of the words themselves.
perhaps the span of time it took for this work to develop is also what makes it feel good to me - i don't associate it with any one place, physical, mental, or temporal. it spans a stretch of recent personal history that includes several countries of residence, many different people and focuses, in short, many different homes. perhaps in what has been, until recently, a relatively rootless life, it is no coincidence after all that this work found its own title: what are the roots that clutch? patrick mcginley, tartu, 2012