Patricia Brennan: Maquishti (LP)


ALBUM IN A SENTENCE: Solo improvisations and jazz compositions that stretch what is possible with a vibraphone or marimba.

Derrumbe is the Spanish word for collapse, but the final track on Maquishti, ‘Derrumbe De Turquesas’ could be translated literally as Turquoise Landslide. If that translation sounds like a remnant from the flower-power era, the track is much more constrained. Patricia Brennan sketches an austere soundscape over five and a half minutes. Notes are played like exhalations, coming from and returning to the silence. Perhaps it’s a piece for someone who is trapped under earth, struggling for air, wanting to resist but needing patience.

Patricia Brennan can’t have known that she would release her first album into a time and space where patience is as oxygen. The story of her album is typical of many musicians. She invested in building a reputation as a jazz percussionist on the New York scene, while working on compositions and experiments with her favoured instruments, vibraphone and marimba. Maquishti was recorded in two August days in 2018 at a record studio in Queens, New York. What must it feel like to hold a Polaroid snapshot of spontaneous moments and improvisations, only to have to wait and work for two and a half years for the world to hear it too? What must if feel like as an artist to watch the world you hoped to release your work into crumble?

Patricia Brennan portrays herself as a patient, thoughtful musician on Maquishti. There is a control to her playing that reminds me of the core muscularity required to be a synchronised swimmer. The point of the album is to demand attention from the listener, to hear her instruments as more than just swinging easy listening or accompaniment. It is as if Brennan is trying to communicate to her audience, “I have known patience in making this work, now I will show you patience too.’

Patience. Cold January days going to work and coming home in the darkness, scraping the ice from the car. Days shaped by repetition, punctuated by round trips. Days of waiting for a constantly filling water balloon of grief, suffering, frustration and shock to burst. It will burst. Days of carrying on, waiting for the days when whatever this is will all be over. Lonely days. Enervated days. Swallowed by a landslide days. We need patience for each one of these days.

The immersive soundscapes that Patricia Brennan builds are not escape capsules from the world we face, they equip. Meditative by nature, they slow breathing and reject distractions. Like the cover artwork, a fractal of winter trees, a new picture is just a twist of the kaleidoscope away. The trees will grow leaves again, the sun will shimmer like the feedback buzz on ‘Solar’, and the record will come out. It will happen, but not yet. So breathe, wait, be patient.

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