Review: Jon Mueller – A Magnetic Center

Jon Mueller - A Magnetic CenterMueller smacks a single drum. The skin is slightly loose, wobbling upon impact and emitting a deep, gong-like resonance that carries all the way through until he hits it again, creating a drone that runs through the gaps in percussive attack. In both of these pieces, the drum is the centre of orbit. It’s a dependable certainty. The origin of common purpose. As the music starts to splay into a state of “chaos”, I listen evermore intently for that one drum, scrabbling and grasping for its consistent boom as it descends beneath a swamp of voices. The higher the water level rises, the further I must dive to find it.

The wall of sound starts with just one voice. Then two, then three. At first I hear distinct phonemes and vocal rhythms (particularly during the second track, which sounds like a clamour of alien market callers declaring their wares and prices), but soon the splay of individual decisions start to cancel eachother out. Mueller keeps adding voices. Just how 1000 dropping iron filings will congregate into the coherent shape of a magnetic field, I start hearing common themes rather than the output of individual decisions – frequencies to which each song regularly swoops, vowel sounds that emerge more frequently than others. Distinct chants start to veer into my field of hearing, although in the midst of the commotion I wonder whether I’m imagining them, using sheer willpower to conjure melodic material within the smear of sound.

At a certain point, a shift takes place in my listening stance. I stop actively searching for detail and shape. I permit my ears to go slack, allowing the sea of vowels and resonances to hit me as a flood. My brain is rinsed of all assumption about what I should be hearing, aligning to the inherent flow and undulation of the music as it passes through me. The minds of Mueller and I unravel in parallel.