Phil Maguire – Monosphere

For those unfamiliar with Phil Maguire, he’s one of the most active practitioners of Minimalism and Microsound today. Following recent releases with James L. Malone on Confront Records (‘Working Title’, 2018), and solo releases on the labels Soft Error (‘brak’, 2017) and Falt (‘Empty Damage’, 2017), Maguire’s latest explorations in Reductionism appears on Tavern Eightieth – the tape label based in Tampere, Finland, run by our very own Ed Trethowan (Net). To truly engage with this output of Phil Maguire, we must first understand that the album ‘Monosphere’ consists of two fifteen-minute pieces of autonomous computer music, created with a custom-built patch for Max MSP that draws focus to unpredictability and nuance.

I often emphasise the importance of human nuance in the music that I enjoy and write about, and to read of Maguire’s purposeful exposition of imperfection and variation from a source completely inhuman is truly fascinating. Hollow drones, fragmented sounds, and a fluctuating bed of pure noise are presented at a lower volume compared to what most listeners are accustomed to; ‘Monosphere’ requires attentive listening to be understood and enjoyed. As ‘Iteration 1’ comes to an abrupt halt, ‘Iteration 2’ enters with sharp sine waves that excite the very edges of our listening capability; I’m quickly reminded of CaRTeR’s (Neil Carter) modular system adventures in ‘Piercing’ (Liquid Library, 2017), who conducts similar composition experiments by working with musical systems allowed to make decisions external to human input. ‘Iteration 2’ also makes extensive use of near-silence, highlighting the space that can be occupied by even the smallest of noises.

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It would be hard not to draw comparisons to the collaborative work of Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose glorification of digital distortion and clipping heard throughout their ‘Virus Series’ (2002-2011) on the German Raster-Norton minimalist label. However, I find Maguire’s ‘Monosphere’ to be more personal and relatable, despite its origins in the artificial.

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I am yet to experience Phil Maguire in a live performance situation, which will be changing in the near future as we’re station relatively close to one another. I can only imagine that the sense of personal connection felt with the artist’s creations will be further enhanced.

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Phil Maguire – ‘Monosphere’ is out today on TVEI, in a very limited run of cassettes and also as a digital download. Only four copies remain of the physical edition (three, shortly after this review has been posted…): be quick to avoid any disappointment.

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