It’s impressive how Terrain juxtaposes two concepts together in aural form, the idea of something solid with that of something ephemeral, particularly since there’s only two instruments in play throughout the album, a piano and a clavinet. The collage continually affirms and negates the boundary between those two elements, straining their relationship to the limit as longer, wider sounds give place to short bursts of noise. Through the track titles, “Trace” and “Shimmer”, it hints towards an abstract reflection on space and time, solidity and fluidity, a correspondence that in the vast possibilities of a single instrument might seem paradoxically restricted. However, by treating the instruments like places to be explored and perceived, the paradox recedes: as if having just found a previously unseen hill in the middle of a forest, the scope of the senses suddenly extends and attempts to comprehend a different magnitude in which the self changes size due to a new spatial relationship.
This seemingly slight adaptation shifts everything around, rendering the place anew. Whereas “Trace” deals perhaps in length, with its softer echoes and its almost complete silences, “Shimmer” is peppered with sharp noises and lingering glissandos, a sort of width. Length might seem easier, a matter of looking forward and planning ahead, a certainty that immediately makes sense of the new in the moment of encountering it. A line extends before you, just like time, and even if what lies ahead is something you haven’t ever seen before, your senses can be relied on to connect it to everything else you are perceiving. Thus, even if the entire album is born from an improvisational principle, of striding into the unknown, there is a particular security granted by the ‘wholesomeness’ of instruments, of that which enables you, like the senses, to see that length in order. A trace is, after all, a hint that there is something greater at work, a pattern, something ultimately comprehensible.
In turn, width seems ephemeral, everything that continually falls right in the border of your eyesight, flickering in and out of direct experience. It’s not so much that you are striding into the unknown, but that the unknown follows the senses around, that instruments are not sources of certainty but of its opposite, mechanically fragmented as they are. The unknown stops being a concept, and starts being a place: artists like Magda Mayas extend instruments, opens them up to the possibility of disorder, of the senses failing to adapt and feeling the noise shimmer all around them. The unseen hill is a surprise not only because it disrupts the order perceived so far, forcing a recalibration, but also because it fundamentally questions the capability of perception to achieve totality; everything is relative, everything is noise, and the instruments used to make sense of sounds are haunted by their failure to do so. Mayas pushes that failure to the forefront, and while it would seem that the concrete melts away into the abstract, it is juxtaposed – like the solidity of space and the ethereal quality of time, it becomes one experience that pulls in various directions at once. Sound and noise, body and machine, this music is no less than that, but also no more. (David Murrieta)