Review: Phil Maguire – Rainsweet Stillness

Near-silence as a conduit of catalyst for ecstatic sensory fullness.

Review: Phil Maguire – Rainsweet Stillness


A good analogy is birdwatching. You might walk for hours and see only a handful a birds. Even then, they’re often silhouettes slipping out of view, or flashes of colour through the gaps of stirred branches. Yet even the predominant periods of birdly absence are enriched by the watcher’s state of heightened sensory engagement, which elevates the landscape’s colours and sharpens the edges. Unlike the passing jolts of excitement that accompany a rare bird sighting, this feeling is constant and intrinsically sourced. The act of “watching” is just the catalyst for a state of ecstatic sensory fullness.

Rainsweet Stillness is largely silent, decorated with only the slightest scuttles of static or wisps of high-pitched tone. At times it’s like a GRM electroacoustic work with the noise gate cranked up, meaning that only the outer edges of sounds poke through for a moment before cutting out again. Nothing remains long enough for us to register its occupation of the present, and initially the experience is characterised by a vivid engagement with only the past and the future – its imprint upon memory, the inevitability of further activity, soon – with nothing in between.

Before long, the predominant feeling of taut anticipation (“when is the next sound coming?”) starts to give way. The edges of the composition unravel until there’s no distinction between the music and the listener’s sonic background, and thus no longer a spotless emptiness where the “now” should be. The lights of perception double in strength, and the attention focal point unfurls. Looking through the window and looking at the window become pretty much the same thing.