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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Magda Mayas' recent albums

By Eyal Hareuveni

German, Berlin-based keyboard player composer Magda Mayas explores in her compositions and collaboration the sound of the piano as well as of other instruments and has developed a highly individual language of her own. She has developed a set of techniques that draw on the history of prepared and inside piano vocabulary, but are individualized and expand the language for internal piano music making.

Magda Mayas’ Filamental - Ritual Mechanics (Relative Pitch, 2024)

The debut album of the Filamental ensemble led by Mayas was recorded live at the Music Unlimited Festival in Wels, Austria in November 2019 (Confluence, Relative Pitch, 2021), when Mayas was one of the co-curators of the festival’s program. Mayas seized the opportunity and fulfilled a long-term dream, putting together an international, eight-musician ensemble, comprised of like-minded idiosyncratic improvisers, with two reeds players - French alto sax player Christine Abdelnour and German clarinetist Michael Thieke, two cellists - Mexican Aimée Theriot-Ramos and Australian Anthea Caddy, two harpists - American Zeena Parkins and British Rhodri Davies, Welsh violinist Angharad Davies and Mayas on Fender Rhodes and harmonium.

But in today’s economic reality, it is impossible to take such an exceptional, experimental ensemble on the road and into the studio. So the sophomore album of Filamental, Ritual Mechanics, was recorded remotely with the musicians recording themselves separately, except Davies and Mayas, who were recorded by Mayas’ partner, Tony Buck (of The Necks fame, who collaborates with Mayas in the Spill duo), who later also mixed all the separate tracks.

But Ritual Mechanics, like Confluence (which refers to two rivers that meet and merge in Geneva), suggest a delicate and mysterious stream of magical sounds and is a singularly cohesive unit that subsumes individual style. Mayas composed two extended pieces, “Re-contour” and the title piece. “Re-contour” highlights the distinct and nuanced voices of the ensemble and their imaginative and unconventional sonic palettes and it unfolds organically and patiently with a dream state’s inner logic, slowly weaving and exploring its intriguing and often gently resonating sonic secrets. The title piece solidifies the collective larger-than-its-sum ensemble work and adds a dramatic and often chaotic percussive dimension to the enigmatic, dream-like and drone-like stream of exquisite sounds. But like the previous piece, it suggests a profound emotional impact and the most beautiful aesthetics of this unique ensemble.

Thuluth - One Third of the Sun (Al Maslakh, 2024)

Thuluth (one-third in Arabic) is the Berlin-based acoustic trio of Mayas on the prepared piano, Lebanese double bass player Raed Yassin (of the “A” Trio) and German vocal artist Ute Wassermann. These three musicians have collaborated in different contexts and formats for many years, and Wasserman played in Yassin’s Praed Orchestra!’s Live in Sharjah (Morphine, 2020), but their first performance as a trio took place at Irtijal Festival in Beirut in 2016. The debut album of the trio, One Third of the Sun (a title that references the apocalyptic prophecy in the Book of Revelation), was recorded at Morphine Raum in Berlin in January 2022 and is released by the experimental Lebanese label Al Maslakh (run by Yassin’s partners in the “A” Trio”, trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj and guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui).

Mayas, Yassin and Wassermann have established profound trust and unique aesthetics during their many collaborations. All of them employ objects and various microphones that expand their sonic palettes, and Yassin lays the double bass on a stool and bows on all its body. The music is freely improvised and flows intuitively and is driven by a constant need to explore and blend enigmatic and imaginative timbres and textures, almost in a ritualistic manner. Often it is impossible to know who is playing what and how as all operate in such a dynamic, vivid and subversive-ironic approach that shifts the conventional palettes of the piano, the double bass and the human voice into abstract sounds that magically resonate and extend each other. Beauty is often a very strange thing and not apocalyptic at all.


Fotis Nikolakopoulos said...

Apart from being prolific, Magda Mayas is a chameleon musician.She can be an integral part of musics ranging from free improv to modern composition and different kinds of self expression through experimenting and taking risks//