Those who have followed the minimal electronic and electroacoustic music of James Murray have learned there is always a method behind the London-based composer’s work. Offering much more than simple atmospheric soundscapes, there is almost always some important conceptual arc or contextual backdrop to lend deeper meaning and, hence, deeper connection for the listener. This has never been more true than on his latest opus just out on Home Normal entitled Falling Backwards. The album is a poignant exploration of a peculiar coping mechanism Murray developed in his youth.
“When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn’t control of my world, instead of losing my temper I’d go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. At home, in public, wherever, it didn’t matter. Always backwards, vertical then inevitably, violently, not. After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time…Recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain. The cognitive effects of this damage are unclear, best guess as to cause is historic trauma. I’d all but forgotten those self-destructive childhood descents, but this surprise transported me back at once to those earliest, strongest feelings, to the bitter intensity of that which first mattered most. The long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact. It’s strange isn’t it, the things we do to cope.” – James Murray
The music on this record is so sumptuously immersive and achingly beautiful, you might be tempted to look past the vulnerability that likely had to be overcome to explore such personal territory so effusively, but that must have been no small leap of faith. The opening tracks (“Learning in Reverse”, “Living Treasure”, “Unbroken Lines”) effectively emulate feelings of tension, anxiety, and dissociation precipitating the inevitable free fall of the title track in which we can feel the seductive comfort of its weightless liberation yet are spared the violence of its sudden end. The concluding tracks (“Old Friend”, “London Plane”, “Father Figure”) are particularly moving, a sentimental and nearly elegiac postlude to the fall and slow emergence to a state of recovery and grace.
Falling Backwards is currently available via Home Normal in a limited CD edition with 4-panel recycled card package (500 copies) as well as digital download (MP3, FLAC, & more).