Tomaga ~ Intimate Immensity

The final album from Tomaga (Tom Relleen and Valentina Magaletti) will forever be colored by the untimely death of Relleen last August; and the color is blue.  Blue is loss and sadness, sea and sky, inspiration and wisdom, and finally, acceptance.  Blue ferries her passengers through the stages of grief.  Blue has many access points, engulfing every emotion.  Noriko Okaku quotes Derek Jarman’s Blue in the video for “Intimate Immensity”:  “Blue protects white from innocence / Blue drags black with it / Blue is darkness made visible.”

The album begins with the drumbeat of life and ends with the sadness of strings.  Percussion is a primary force throughout: a pulse, a rhythm, an engagement.  But there is also the presence of stone, as shown on the cover and in the video: Relleen’s “favourite stones collected from different places throughout his life.”  Stones are security; a person can be a rock for another.  But grief also sinks like a stone, and in the images, even stones may peel and shatter.  One thinks of Magaletti and the passage of time, the sedimentary layers of connection, composition, tragedy and perspective.  How do the warm, uplifting tones of “Mompfie Has to Pay” sound in retrospect?  They reflect two years of collaboration before everything changed.

The question becomes even larger in the face of our last global year.  Many people are grieving in unimaginable ways, facing prohibitions on touch, gathering, rites.  Many, caught off guard by loss, are trying to celebrate the lives they made together, to embrace gratitude through their grief.  It’s odd to say that such a feeling can be found in Intimate Immensity, as the album has no idea what lies ahead; and yet, it is.

The single vocal piece, “Very Never (My Mind Extends)” is nearly ebullient, thanks to a hypnotic groove and the voice of Cathy Lucas.  At first, there are no words, then a looping stream, and at the end, no words again.  The groove picks up right away in “More Flowers,” whose title can be read in multiple ways.  Yet no matter what the background story, the music teems with life.  The chimes of “The King of Naples” seem elegiac, and the title track wrings out the heart.  But the album deserves to be remembered as a paintbrush of color, a splash of intensity ~ bursting at the seams, too large to be just “a final album,” remembered instead as a lasting impression.  (Richard Allen)

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