I’m not sure I can describe Torn Ivory any better than musician Michael McDermott does in his press release: “a saturated forest of delicate acoustic piano framed by a flickering stream of static textures.” With that firmly in mind, you can concentrate on dipping into the intricacies of McDermott’s machinations and manipulations as he pulls, snips, splices and mutates his original low-fi piano recordings. This culminates in a kind of dream-haze state of listening where the sharp, solid notes of the piano pick out their halting melodies as the air around fills with fresh sounds, echoes, and fading resonance. Against it all, the non-intrusive crackle of the static peppers the flow with its hint of imperfection. McDermott keeps the proceedings soft and almost meditative; the mix of elements gel even in their disparity. If anything, the constant deepening and refinement of the sound pulls the listener further into each statement, and the space between pieces becomes a waking moment before the next begins. I have always appreciated McDermott’s detail work, and it’s in full force here. Torn Ivory works nicely as an ambient listen, but close attention points out the elegant construction and the no-wasted-sounds philosophy at play, further clarified by the mastering job done by renowned ambient musician Taylor Deupree of 12K. Dive ears-first into “Black and White Boo” to hear this at its most complex and engaging. McDermott respects negative space and the note untouched, and knows that the listener can and will fill each pause with their own meaning. This is where Torn Ivory derives a good deal of its emotional power.
With its minimalist framework, charming piano base and deeply hypnotic treatments, Torn Ivory has kept me intrigued through many repeat plays. It gives the listener space in which to think, but at the same time is continually presenting focal challenges–do you pay attention to the thoughts and feelings the music is pulling up, or will you peer more closely into McDermott’s artistry? The best answer is to just listen again and see what happens. A superb release from Mikronesia.
Available from earSnake.