Boomkat Product Review:
Hailing the sorely overlooked experimental charms of John McGuire, Unseen Worlds live up to their mantle with a hugely absorbing, 90 min showcase of his mesmerising Pulse Music series 1975-1979 - RIYL Paul DeMarinis, Maggi Payne, Aleksi Perälä, Oren Ambarchi
Escaping our attention before now, despite a release on the excellent Edition RZ; American composer John McGuire is firmly under the spotlight here with a survey of his hybrid post-serialist/minimalist glitter conceived and recorded following studies at Occidental College, LA, and UC Berkeley, then under Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Gottfried Michael Koenig in Europe. With the benefit of hindsight, the recordings are offered as a bridge between the ostensibly, mutually exclusive bedfellows of the mid-late US and EU avant gardes, with the label cannily comparing his variation in repetition to “the primary-colored grids of Le Corbusier’s L’Habitation apartment complex” where serialism is Montreal’s Habitat 67 modular housing complex - which a quick Google search will surely enlighten architecturally oblivious listeners.
Borne of an era when composers were quite literally creating new frontiers day by day, with thanks to the advent of more affordable and manageable electronic equipment, McGuire’s ‘Pulse Music’ sees him initially use his machines’ in-built precision to achieve progressions in tempo and time signatures that were too difficult for human performers. The results found on three of this release’s pieces are unfeasibly technically demanding but also engaging in their speed and accuracy of performance, and make for a main attraction in themselves. But the release really comes into its own with the contrast of ‘Pulse Music II (Live, 1978 Pro Musica Nova Festival)’, which was commissioned retrospectively in the years following his electronic ‘Pulse Music’, and adapts the method to a slower scheme for the Bremen orchestra and four pianists (Christoph Delz, Herbert Henck, Deborah Richards, Doris Thomsen) plus McGuire himself on organ, whose slower breathing version reveals a more sumptuous landscape of awning contours and breathlessly ascendent timbres.