Boomkat Product Review:
An absolutely essential, first ever vinyl reissue of Maggi Payne’s hugely immersive and mind-expanding Crystal [Lovely Music, 1986] - an outstanding example of the crossover between West Coast American new age thought, computer synthesis and electro-acoustic composition in the mid ‘80s, remastered and cut by Rashad Becker to make for one of the standout archival releases of 2017, bar none.
To mark the 30th anniversary of its release, Belgium’s Aguirre Records have thankfully re-generated Crystal on vinyl for the first time, re-cut at 45rpm by Rashad Becker to render its chromatic sweeps and dynamic vortices as vividly as when they were first realised;- at the esteemed Mills College, where she is co-director of the the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM), and teaches recording, engineering, composition, and electronic music.
Crystal forms the 2nd vital reissue of Maggi’s work in recent years, following up the revelatory Ahh-Ahh (Music For Ed Tannenbaum’s Technological Feets 1984-1987) reissue by Root Strata in 2012, which coincidentally soundtracked one of the strongest LSD trips in this writer’s memory not long after its re-release. I won’t bore you with details of a flashback, but I can safely say that undergoing Maggi’s music in that altered state gave it unforgettable context - a unity of the senses - which aided to reveal its insight or foresight in gloriously transcendent style.
With that in mind, Maggi likewise distills a potential for profound experience within Crystal, as she explains, “I create immersive environments, inviting listeners/participants to enter the sound and be carried with it, experiencing it from the inside out in intimate detail. The sounds are almost tactile, visible, tangible. A narrative of the imagination exists, allowing each person experiencing the work to thread their own paths through their mind's imagination and their body's physical engagement. Each sound slowly unfolds, revealing intricacies and complexity. Each grows and evolves like crystals forming under the microscope.”
Within this finely controlled and naturally, mathematically rigorous approach to architectronics, Maggi divines a range of dynamics which feel to vividly represent elemental forces or noumenal gestures. Whether sending us skyward to throbbing modular techno and gloriously pensile drones from the faintest initial murmurs of White Night, or sensitively extruding your mind thru stages of lush, keening discord in Crystal, and effectively diffusing the senses, the ego, thru the tenebrous electromagnetic disturbances of Solar Wind, the effect almost inevitably leaves listeners wide-eyed and open-jawed, wondering where the hell they’ve just been and how to get back there.
For us at least, it’s easy to place Maggi’s music with some of the most important research of her era - a generation who instinctively and academically explored the potential of psychedelia thru the prism of new technology, and evidently made some truly astonishing discoveries along the way. If you’ve ever been wowed by the work of Pauline Oliveros, Roland Kayn, Christina Kubisch, or Alvin Luceir, you owe it yourself to immerse in Crystal at the earliest opportunity.