Paul McGuire’s debut full-length album showcases the sonic possibilities of acoustic instruments. Released on experimental label Slip Discs, the record consists of three tracks offering a snapshot of McGuire’s experiments with strings and percussion.
‘Marshes’ is a piece for guitar ensemble built on microtonal drones. Although Penderecki inevitably springs to mind, McGuire delicately weaves threads of sound together into a pulsating and unearthly tapestry that owes much more to Saariaho’s sensuous orchestral writing.
Bookending this are two more recent pieces that use guttural noises to create sparse and delicate soundscapes. ‘Tampered’, performed by Céline Papion in 2014, is a solo cello work filled with taps, scratches and buzzing gathered into several short vignettes, rather like little piles of sonic odds and ends. The title track, for percussion duo, creates a paper-thin structure that expands into a cacophony of scrapes and gurgles and finally emerges into ethereal thuds, resonating with rich harmonics.
McGuire often pursues sonic experimentation at the expense of crafting narrative; ‘Tampered’, especially, creates too much space around too little material. However, although many “extended techniques” have become part of the contemporary mainstream, Sleep Spindles uncovers some curious and fascinating aural effects.
Originally published on Sinfini Music.