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
One of the steadiest sources of light among labels that feature & promote ambient music from around the globe is Home Normal under the guidance of Ian Hawgood, a fine artist and mastering engineer in his own right. The newest entry to their catalog brings together two outstanding artists who likewise both curate independent labels while creating their own music, Stijn Hüwels (Slaapwel Records) and James Murray (Slowcraft Records). The new collaborative project is called Silent Vigils, a suitable moniker for the liminal quiescence of sound these two kindred spirits have reached across water to create with one another.
“Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem… places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind. We began this project as an exchange of gestures across the water, a dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated. We completed it on 22nd March 2017 – the day of the Westminster attack, one year to the day after the Brussels bombings. These four pieces have become our personal dedications to the quiet strength of blended culture, free thinking and open borders.” – Silent Vigils
The origin of the latest work by James Murray goes back to 2014 when he and his wife Anne were set to vacation in a remote log cabin in the mountains. Unfortunately, Anne took ill from the moment they arrived, but as it turns out James had packed a laptop, small midi keyboard, and hard disc recorder, and while she recuperated the eerie beauty of the surrounding landscape invoked his creative mode which he now had time to indulge.
“Pines groaned in the woods all around us, walls and floorboards continually creaked and china rattled on the shelves. I recorded everything that made a sound, then manipulated and distressed those recordings, letting them bleed into one another, forming their own shifting rhythms and gritty, grainy textures. I added deep sub-bass sines, electronic washes and gently improvised motifs that felt in step with the strangely watchful energy of the place. Between the crackling of the open fire and the wild, wide landscape outside, I seemed to have stumbled into the perfect environment for exploring these unsettled yet tenderly nostalgic feelings I’d been having. The music flowed…” – James Murray
Calmly transportive. Blissfully adrift. Hazy and translucent. A listening journey with four exceptional albums from around the globe that delve into the idyllic side of ambient and electronic music created by The Green Kingdom (USA), Chihei Hatakeyama (Japan), Warmth (Spain), and James Murray (UK).
Strong conceptual themes presented in the context of minimal ambient and electronic music are the penchant of self-taught British composer James Murray. Having released the deeply personal Loss on Eilean Rec. earlier this year, he turns outward and looks upward on his latest work, The Sea in the Sky which is now available on Voxxov Records.
For his seventh album….James Murray takes to these whirling currents, vertiginous depths and irresistible tides. Dissolving guitar, bass, piano and electronics into continuous streams of granular sound he has created a strikingly original series of long-form meditations that condense, dissolve and recombine their elements, constantly drifting and shifting in form like the clouds themselves – Voxxov Records