Review: Mark Vernon — “Magneto Mori: Kilfinane”

“It’s an exploration of tape recording as a form of memory storage. Using a portable reel to reel tape recorder sounds from around the town were recorded onto the first side of the tape over a two day period — dripping rain, creaky gates, car mechanics, drainpipes, shops, church bells, refrigerator cabinets, wind blowing through the trees, passing traffic, etc. were just some of the sounds encountered.” — Canti Magnetici.

artwork by asenseofsomeplace
artwork: Asenseofsomeplace

Mark Vernon’s recording titled “Magneto Mori: Kilfinane” captures a brief glimpse into the town’s atmosphere in a fairly unconventional way. Using musique concrète techniques of tape manipulation, Vernon concentrates on not only transmitting the town’s breath to the listener but also includes a collection of recordings from the local radio station archives. He proceeds to cut these up, demagnetize the tape, bury the tape for a couple of days, dig it back up, clean and paste together random sections of the tape.

photo by canti magnetici
photo: Canti Magnetici

The final effect of the recording is something out of Pierre Schaeffer’s playbook. It transmits you into a world that feels alien and alive at the same time. The interlacing sounds of nature, people talking and the magnetic damage feel like an active scene in Kilifnane’s life. The damaged sections of the tape, representing the selective compiling of memories and memory’s deterioration, add that extra vitality to the entire experience. The second side of the tape meshes digital pre-recorded sounds with the analog dementia of the first side, further pushing on the perception of time passing. The final effect — just as surreal.

photo by canti magnetici
photo: Canti Magnetici

My favorite moments on this tape involved the brief appearances of orchestral music, church bell or what sounded like a choir in the world of external noises and cut up voices of the past. They shifted the lens focus on the tape in a very effective manner. As a whole, the multiple points of view on the subject of the city gave the recording an almost Cubist perspective on the small city’s life. Just try to listen to this magic record.

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