Mira Martin-Gray

experimental electronic musician

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I am an improvising musician, producer, and reluctant composer / sound artist / whatever from Toronto. I perform in many collaborative contexts as well as solo, and sometimes use the moniker tendencyitis (that's tendency-itis).

A multi-instrumentalist, injury and chronic illness led me to find a way to make music accessibly. I have developed a practice of manipulating mixing boards wired in feedback loops, probing the intersections between noise and melody, drone and rhythm, indeterminacy and control. I seek to wield this conventionally undesirable sound source with the full weight of its emotionally expressive power in order to counter dominant cultures of desirability.

My work has been reviewed in Wire, Musicworks, The Quietus, Toneshift, ATTN magazine, and other outlets.

Solo recordings have appeared on Arachnidiscs (Toronto), Bastard Girl Utopia (Detroit), dubbed tapes (London), Full Spectrum (Texas), FLUF (Copenhagen), pan y rosas (Chicago) Personal Records (Montreal), and SM-LL (London).
Self releases can be found on my bandcamp.

I have also released music in the groups Overleaf, 3M and Quartz Ibex.

I've started a lil DIY label called cette records, pretty much as a place to collect recordings of group improvisation I'm involved in.

You can hear me sing songs by myself here and with a friend here.

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PRESS


Wire on OUT OF BODY OUT OF WORK

Mira Martin-Gray's first release for Chicago netlabel Pan Y Rosas is an idiosyncratic romp in which she coaxes unruly feedback squalls from a variety of mixing boards. The Toronto improvisor's interest in using these studio tools as instruments stems from a desire for something accessible that could be played expressively following a disability inducing injury. Through her interactions, these unassuming boxes of wires become interfaces with howling electronic spirits. Martin-Gray has an affinity for what she calls "undesirable sounds". Her machine voices are abrasive, yet tender; squicky, squirty and even erotic, like a circuit-bent 8-bit video game console having loud, unrestrained orgasms. What's especially compelling is that each one has its own eccentric character. The personality of "Solo Mixer 4" is shrill and determined, yet vulnerable. "Undesirable" is in the ear of the beholder.


Toneshift on OUT OF BODY OUT OF WORK

Mira Martin-Gray creates extremely unexpected work, and her latest is as quirky as it gets. This Toronto-based original is in her own world, and for good reason, it's a place to develop wildly original ideas. This falls somewhere between balloon animal play, tweaked-out digital frequencies and some kind of twisted old skool haunted house. Hers is a physical sound sculpture that finds an intermediary set of patterns from an unlikely sound source. Martin-Gray finds tonal ambiguity in the annals of the inverse. It's as though she is spitting rhythm. Beguiling.


ATTN Magazine on AA0020

Flicked spittle, scrunched aluminium foil, choirs of ripped fabric, the squeaks of shuffling polystyrene blocks. I pull all of these textures out of the landfill of mixer feedback, and then mutter to myself about how it's "remarkable that anyone could want to throw away a perfectly good one of these!" The first of these two pieces is pure dancefloor fuel: loops salvaged from tattered sheets of static and electronic whimpers draped off the stereo edges like earrings, driven by a bass drum that sounds like a steel-capped boot kicking a plastic drainpipe. Yet despite its coarse appearance, dance music is all about movement - it stalls teasingly at the brink of the drop, collapses into rhythmic remnants and rebuilds itself, slides elegantly into half-time. A most dextrous reconstitution of waste material.
The second track is just as rich in groove, albeit written in the fault lines that run along the blocks of static. A dialogue becomes apparent between the stammering hiss in the background and the gunk that splatters the fore, skipping along in light-footed syncopated steps. There is immense tension here. The noise starts to sound like a photocopier forced into reverse by hand, the various mechanisms screaming as they press themselves into my palms. Unlike the first track this is a brittle and unstable thing, forever resisting the shape that tendencyitis has wrenched it into. Both tracks, I should add, are wonderful
There's the raw sound and me, with nothing in between. When listening over headphones, the effect is peculiar - the sound feels so incredibly close, as if sparked from the circuitry within the headphones themselves. The screams of crossed-wire faults. The crackles of dulled copper. These digital scraps gather mass, the edges hardening into crust, and they reach my ears as tactile sensations rather than sounds: an experience often more akin to holding objects while blindfolded rather than an act of listening, feeling the abrasion against the inside of my head, gathering wounds in each ear canal. The second track drags its gnawed nails across me as if anxiously fidgeting, rhythmic only for the therapeutic soothe of acting repetitiously. When it ends, I can almost feel the blood drying across my cochlea.


The Ardent Wake on Microdebris

Microdebris... fashions no-input mixer, a cheap organ and a flanger into a searingly clean, chewy microtonal drone and glitch. Belying its humble sound sources somewhat, the sound of the tape has something medical in its sterility. Not an alienating or dehumanising kind: more a deeply refreshing, if brusque, cleanliness. Opener "Tremble Dance" best sums this up. A bracing, crystalline stream of mixer slush unzips; a gravelly but gentle and not unpleasant resistance gathers along the base. Feedback gradually pulls the current down into a sloshy, satisfying burble. A abrupt zzzchuup and a brief reflux pools before a syrupy whoosh of air wraps it up. I apparently have a reputation in my office for constantly talking up the giddying, low-key psychedelic experience of having your ears syringed (seriously though, if you haven't tried it already, do - it’s amazing). This track I think most concisely recreates the experience.
Most of the record plays out a causal conflict between an ominous, billowing drone in the background and a gristly but playful scratch and pop of bacterial mixer in the foreground. "unreversal"'s brittle, echoey rattle resembles the scraping of low-battery pocket fans across rusty strings... A sudden heave and some harsh light pierces the membrane of the track, revealing a hidden environment of joyous, tendrily harmonic skronk operating independently of everything else. "disposition" works similarly; feeding in a high-pitch stringy whine worried and rumbled by queasy mixer wavering. Enzyme flush and botched emulsification ensue in a frenzied fete of chewed buzzes and elasticated shape-pulling. Thrillingly ecstatic!
"proven benefits of walking backwards" is especially impressive. Layers of wavy thundercrack slide in, and soft glitch sticks and collects in the mushy ground. Begin friction, hum and levitation. Yr lifted, hovering in a celestial horizon before being steered slowly into a electric storm of acidic chirps and alkali gurgles, crumbling everything into twitching bells and sharp, strobing flashes. An EKG rings; some harsh momentary stillness, then - bluntly - torn up and crunched. From such a small, humble electronic setup, carefully manipulated, Martin-Gray produces something with the rich sway of a string quartet - or the gravity, tonal range and molecular reverence of a pipe organ - and, despite the relative brevity of each piece, makes it sound so damn forceful! The sidelong, self-titled B-side is a tenser, more studied affair. At the back; a steady underlayer; growling and baying, gradually teasing itself open imperceptibly as the side progresses. Up front, s ome subtly sinister static electric clicks and pops. Sounds evoked include: galloping hooves, typewriter keys, simmering pans, the zing and click of those metal balls you put in yr hand or on yr 90s office desk, and the sinister sound design for cell biology animations. This is left to wrangle and slow-cook for a duration. Listen deep and you can just about make out irregular patterns, unintentional mixer rhythms, specks and sparks like a record. Miniscule molecular twitches and spots in a closely controlled microbial play... It takes a good 17 minutes before an abrupt nosedive into panic-stricken feedback screech and bloody thump. Eventually it softens (I think, or perhaps I soften) to a manageable set of irregular chirps and clacks, still with the pattern fascination implicit in the cycling drift towards bounceable rhythms. An audacious, brilliant end!