A Sense of Place: Lower River by Michael A. Muller


In 2006, multi-instrumentalist Michael A. Muller co-founded the Austin-based ensemble Balmorhea which went on to create six full-length records and numerous EPs over the past 13 years while touring globally and producing original scores and track placements for TV & film. Now, Muller makes his full-length debut as a solo artist with Lower River, an album which began as a sound experiment in 2018 that spans from the Oregon coastline all the way to rural southern Italy and the remote fishing villages of southern France. It is an engrossing musical travelogue that is both abstractly referential and deeply introspective, a self-described exploration of “place where time, space, and self are occluded”.

“With a tape recorder in hand, Muller chronicled his journeys through sound, contemplating along the way what it means to deeply listen amid a modern narrative underwritten by distraction. Merging his field recordings with original compositions recorded in his home studio in Austin, Lower River is a sonic venture into other worlds and into the depths of one’s own mind; a study in engaging with sounds that don’t easily slot into pre-existing notions of what a album ‘ought’ to be.”

(video by Peter Liversidge)

Links:  Beacon Sound (LP)  |  1631 Recordings (digital) | Michael A Muller

Listeners who appreciated the restrained, contemplative nature of Balmorhea’s 2017 release Clear Language will find much to enjoy here, but the compositions that make up Lower River are comparatively more spacious and more opaque with an even greater emphasis on texture and atmosphere. The music has a distinctly filmic quality, at times, acting like a sort of camera panning slowly across landscapes frozen in the amber of memory.  The album may have been inspired by very specific scenes and locations, but Muller has molded his impressions of those places into rewardingly immersive inward journeys unbound by the specificity of place or time.

Lower River will be available beginning October 25, 2019 as a limited edition vinyl LP from Beacon Sound (500 copies) and digitally from 1631 Recordings. The record includes contributions by avant bass clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff (of Golden Retriever), singer Heather Woods Broderick (also known for work with Sharon Van Etten & Efterklang), as well as Balmorhea’s Sam Pankey and Elan Green on double bass and cello respectively. The cover art was created by renowned Dutch photographer Awoiska Van Der Molen.

In lieu of performing traditional shows in support of the album, Muller has curated an touring exhibit of interdisciplinary work to debut Lower River through Fall 2019 comprised of video installations and interactive audio experiences. See his website for more information.