“I work very slowly.” The four words that begin Patrick McGinley’s extensive notes for his most recent LP are telling of an artist who brings, first and foremost, a deep care to his craft. This isn’t news for anyone familiar with his catalog, particularly his albums dating back to 06’s superb collaboration with Jonathan Coleclough, Husk. McGinley’s tireless contributions in putting field recording on the proverbial map have seen him rise as a prominent figure in a style of music that’s low enough under the radar to be often labeled ‘non-music.’ Just goes to show that it’s for the love of it and little else, and the same can be said of his friends and fellow sound artists John Grzinich and Yannick Dauby—the three of which you might consider the Estonian axis of captured sound.
Songs For Forgetting was released about seven months ago now, and before that you’d have to go back about four years to his last proper album. In that time McGinley scrupulously made recordings of things like dripping gutter spouts, fireworks, a giant sand timer, and a bowed radio antenna. He also made a point of evoking a more traditional spirit of song on this release, and as a result a Ukrainian zither-like instrument, a bandura, is also featured. hidden in these songs is a plethora of origin; the album coming across as a kind of cryptic atlas coded in sound. The listener is given a sonic arrangement from which to derive meaning, but only the creator himself can fully decipher the work.
There are many layers to Songs For Forgetting, and as one digs deeper they are rewarded with a nesting doll’s worth of surprises. The LP jacket features an embossed aspen leaf skeleton from McGinley’s personal found object collection, and the paper itself appears to hold bits and pieces of detritus (perhaps also provided by McGinley?). Furthermore, McGinley made recordings of the printing press while the jackets were being made—not a bad call back to a past work should these recordings ever grace a future release. Ultimately, it is the songs themselves that hold the most intrigue, confirming that a Murmer release is still something to get excited about.
Songs For Forgetting may feel skeletal at times, but the quality is a testament to how well McGinley layers his recordings, where multiple sound sources can give off the illusion of a joined origin. The first and fourth songs showcase this well, as the quick, spindly tones of his zithers sit perfectly atop the sounds of rainy gutters and fireworks, respectively (the tempos match up almost perfectly). And if these tracks come across as a bit playful for the devout field-recording enthusiast, I’d counter with a plea to look at it from the perspective of unconventionality, to attempt to embrace the act of a nature artist rolling down his sleeves and venturing into the great indoors.
It is “The Third Song For Forgetting,” however,—a strictly outdoor sourced piece—that is the album’s crown. Frequencies sourced from physically manipulating, or picking up the wind on, telegraph wires, rods, antennae, or metal fences, has been a long standing practice among phonographers. Harry Bertoia and Alan Lamb are my go-to artists for that particular sound, but McGinley certainly gives them a run for their money on this track with a palette-whetting arrangement for ocean waves and a grayscale melody that would rival any long-wire drone. McGinley harnessed these drones from bowing a radio antenna on the roof of an observatory in Tõravere with village native Piibe Kolka. The song marks a high point in the Murmer catalog, and as an album, Songs For Forgetting reveals McGinley as a man who won’t soon take lightly his search for the world’s perfect sounds.
Visit the album’s kickstarter campaign. It’s a good read.