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James Murray * Gri + Mosconi

Gri + Mosconi

 

Landscape Of Lovers

JAMES MURRAY – LANDSCAPE OF LOVERS

Less than two months after Falling Backwards James Murray presents his new album. This time one of those spectacular handmade released on Fluid Audiothe kind that come with an incense stick, vintage photos, nostalgic slides (from 1910 – 1940) and more exuberant specialties. (And, as you may know, the kind that sell out on pre-orders immediately – although there are rumours that Boomkat seems to have a few left in stock though I seriously doubt that).

James Murray always creates the most personal ambient music imaginable. Falling Backwards was about his own individual childhood memories, on landscape Of Lovers he chooses a shamelessly romantic road: “honing in on and finding the essence of love, and of what it means to love.” 

“Murray, while recognising the falling away and dying of many a love, doesn’t take the world-weary and sardonic views to heart: he’s a firm believer that love is to be found everywhere, that the heart can renew itself instead of clamming up after a painful episode of heartbreak, even amid a ruined world and its ongoing Nightmare on Earth Street. The coming together and parting are central themes, with both yin and yang orbiting a couple. The birth, the middle, the ending.”

Most of the times, interpreting the context of ambient music is in the mind of the listener. Abstract soundscapes can tell different stories depending on the listener’s mood, and the context can change with its environmental surroundings. But in choosing his notes and atmospheres, Murray manages to convey the weightlessness as well as the burden of love: not only the ‘crush’ when love hits (and ‘your feet leave the ground’), but also “the heart-wrenching tug of two lovers as they say goodbye, if only for a while. Landscapes of Lovers explores both zones: the sentimentality of separation as well as the more obvious moment of first sight and first touch.”

It can hardly be denied that the framing of this music helps interpreting it: the album title, the track title And So Goodbye For Now, the notes on the album, James’ previous releases. I can’t help but wonder how the music would be experienced if it was packed in a completely different context, with different titles and such.
But why would we?
After all, James Murray presents us his music in the way every musician should: an honest interpretation of his personal emotions, in a way every listener (or at least those with a heart) can relate to.


Gri + Mosconi

GRI + MOSCONI – BETWEEN OCEAN AND SKY  Also on Spotify

Apart from working on his own music, James Murray also runs his own label: Slowcraft Records. The label originally released his own music and that of his wife (Anne Garner), but earlier in 2018 James decided to broaden its scope and invite artists he admired to release albums in the Slowcraft Presents series.
After Alapastel and Neotropic, the third release in this series is Between Ocean And Sky by Francis M. Gri (piano, synths, electronic and ebow guitar) and Federico Mosconi (guitars, live electronics).

Francis M. Gri previously released his work on Krysalisound, Whitelabrecs and Time Released Sound, and has collaborated with Giulio Aldinucci. Federico Mosconi graduated in classical guitar and multimedia composition, and performs a broad range of music from classical, contemporary and electroacoustic music.
Their broad range of musical experience can easily be felt on this album, on which they merge ‘ambient, drone, neoclassical and post-rock into a singular, cohesive and resonant statement’. In the course of one single track the bright piano theme may dissolve into waves of noise, a gentle tinkling piano may grow into a gritty wall of sound.

“With apparent ease the duo have effectively merged musical identities, interweaving layers of manipulated guitar and textured piano, grounding and innervating one another throughout six exquisite instrumentals that wordlessly bridge depth and height with crystalline tenderness and tidal strength.”

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James Murray – Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

JAMES MURRAY – FALLING BACKWARDS  Also on Spotify

Some of you probably wondered why the recently published James & Anne‘ mix does not feature a track from James Murray‘s most recent release Falling Backwards. The answer is simple: because the mix was finished quite some time before this album was released. Otherwise it would have definitely contained a track from this album, because with this release Murray seems to surpass all his earlier releases in terms of musical soundscapes that are very personal and will resonate with many listeners on an emotional level.

James himself explains the album title (and the cover image) like this:
“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. [….] 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.”
James forgot about these ‘self-destructive childhood descents’ but the memories came back after ‘recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain’, possibly caused by historic trauma.
These memories of ‘the long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact’ were the inspiration for this Falling Backwards album, definitely his most personal to date.

It is an interesting question: what makes an album full of instrumental ambient soundscapes, ‘abstract’ as they are by nature, feel so very personal? But, on the other hand, not só personal that it refers to the artist’s unique situation only… but ‘personal’ for the listener too?

I don’t know, I can’t really explain. I can only assume that part of that comes from the accompanying explanation – with another text and a completely different context the listener’s mindset could be framed otherwise. But another (and important) part must be the intention of the artist is clearly felt: the honesty, opennes and vulnerability he’s not afraid to show. This can be felt and recognised – and probably is also one of many reasons why James Murray has become one of the more important artists/producers in this genre.

Falling Backwards is not released on his own label Slowcraft Records this time, but on Ian Hawgood’s Home NormalIt is the labels last release for this year, before it goes into a (hopefully short) hibernation. The choice could’ve hardly been better, because this one can go on repeat for a while.

(Interesting – though possibly unrelated – sidenote: Anne Garner‘s (James’ wife)  Wherever You Ggets a somewhat different connotation with the background of Falling Backwards. The track is from her 2015 Be Life albumand also the closing track of the James & Anne Mix

BTW: If you want to hear more from James Murray (besides his previous releases), I strongly recommend to check out his live set from October 2017 recorded at his performance for Fluister in Tivoli/Vredenburg Utrecht.

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James & Anne (Mix)

Anne & James - Eyes

The inspiration for this mix came after attending separate performances of James Murray and Anne Garner.
The music they perform is quite different: James exploring various kinds of abstract experimental electronic soundscapes, Anne performing her poetic emotional songs blending jazz, alternative pop, folk,  spectral lullabies and tender neo-classical arrangements.
As different as their output may be, it still fits together very well – which is no real surprise knowing that Anne & James are a couple living together, and James produces and contributes towards  Anne’s music.
I wanted to find out how it would work out when mixing some tracks from their past and recent albums together.
And I found out it works very well, as you can hear yourself in this mix. It also shows that, if the ingredients match, 0ne plus one can be much more than two!

James & Anne H_C cover

A collaboration of forces between three separate entities, Headphone Commute, Ambientblog, and Slowcraft Records, are proud to present a unique mix by a colleague and partner in crime, Peter van Cooten, of beautiful works from a beautiful couple, James Murray and Anne Garner, culminating a selection of compositions they released individually, as well as together under various project names. Peter then carefully compiled these pieces together into a gorgeous journey of ambiance and voice, and now, along with the appearance on the Podcast, we are honoured to offer this little gem to you as a digital download (lossless, of course) via the new entry of Headphone Commute Presents on our Bandcamp! Whew!
Headphone Commute

 

Tracklist

This mix is published as  part of the “Headphone Commute Presents…” series.
A High Quality WAV version of this mix can be downloaded from the HeadPhone Commute Bandcamp page

 


JAMES & ANNE (Peter van Cooten Mix)

Buy the lossless (WAV) version of James & Anne (Mix) now

Or:
Stream it from Mixcloud:

 

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Silent Vigils * Ian Hawgood

Silent Vigils

Silent Vigils

SILENT VIGILS – FIELDEM  Also on Spotify

I admit I had to look up the meaning of the word ‘vigil’, to find out it refers to a ‘period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray’.
Add ‘silent’ to that moment and the name of this duo perfectly describes the atmosphere of their music. Perfect for listening while awake in moments usually spent asleep.

Silent Vigils is James Murray (UK) and Stijn Hüwels (B). Both are prolific musicians, producers as well as label owners: Slowcraft and Slaapwel, respectively. But Fieldem is not released on any of their own labels, but on Home Normal.
The album presents four long pieces with titles that seem to refer to locations that could be in the UK as well as in Belgium: Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem.
“Places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind.”

45 Minutes of peaceful, unhurried music – a “dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated.”


Ian Hawgood 光IAN HAWGOOD – 光 (HIKARI)   Also on Spotify

Ian Hawgood does not need any further introduction I suppose. Even if you’re remotely interested in the ‘ambient’ and ‘experimental’ genre, you’ll have met his name on many occasions, be it as the curator of the Home Normal label, or as a multidisciplinary artist, educator, instrument builder or sound engineer.
He has lived a great part of his life in Japan but currently resides in Warsaw, Poland. The two different cultures are reflected in the titles of the tracks on this album: the first five are in Japanese, the last four are in plain English. Which, by the way, does not mean the music in these two parts are completely different: after all Ian Hawgood is the same person, wherever he lives.

(Hikari) translates as “Light” or “Shine”. Judging by the titles alone, there’s a difference in atmosphere that seems to tell a personal story: while the Japanese titles refer to concepts as Preface, Waves, Refraction, Journey and Extinction, the English titles sound sadder than that: Every Ending Is A Little Sadder Now You’re Gone, Hurt Whispers On. Gladly, the closing track of the album is titles A Light That Never Dims.

The first thing you’ll notice is the deliberate lo-fi sound quality of the recordings, which is perhaps not what you’d expect from a seasoned sound engineer. The music is performed on his childhood piano, using old disused reel to reel recorders and an array of vintage synths.
The result is that these pieces are very intimate: it’s as if this album was specifically recorded personally for you.

is not released on Home Normal, by the way: it is number 14 in the Eilean Records release series.
“color: blue. season: summer”

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James Murray – Live @ Fluister, Tivoli 08-10-2017

Murray @ Fluister

Murray @ Fluister

JAMES MURRAY – LIVE @ FLUISTER, TIVOLI, UTRECHT, 08-10-2017

I guess it’s no secret that I’m an admirer of James Murray‘s music – as you can tell by the recommendations on Ambientblog.
So I was very happy to attend one of his rare live-performances as part of the Fluister series in Tivoli VredenburgUtrecht (my hometown!) – a double bill with Sylvain Chauveau.

Fluister means ‘whisper’, and Luister means ‘listen’. The F/luister concert series is dedicated to ‘intense listening’, often (but not exclusively) programming electronic/ambient music. Its niche setting means there usually is a a small but dedicated audience.
And dedicated means: quiet and attentive. (Which is a relief, considering the recent discussions about audiences chatting noisily as if they don’t care about the band that is playing).

Murray started extremely quiet, and throughout his (33 minute) set you could literally hear a needle drop. The mutual respect allowed him to take the time to develop his set in a very restrained and unhurried way. It may be one of the most difficult tasks when playing ambient music in a live setting: not giving in to the temptation of constantly introducing new events and triggers just to keep the audience’s attention, but doing only just what the atmosphere needs.
I guess it takes guts to restrain yourself in front of a live audience…

It was a pleasure to watch (/hear) Murray build his set from nothing up to a guitar chord ‘climax’ and then abruptly ending the performance. It was a real ‘live’ set: not just a man behind a laptop doing incomprehensible things, but interacting live with a computer using contact microphones (in many ways, such as the foot thump rhythm later in the set), guitar, toy piano, and whatnot.

The set feels like one single composition, but is built mainly from fragments of his latest album Heavenly Waters. There’s a fragment of The Sea In The Skytoo (Settle) – as well as some new sounds not on album.
Did I already mention I really enjoyed his performance? 😉

Of course there’s a reason I spend so many words on this (I don’t usually post concert reviews here): this performance was recorded directly from the mixing desk, and James now made it available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp! So it’s available to hear for those that were there, and for the many more that weren’t.

It’s a free download if you want, but of course you’re invited to pay a little donation if you can.
After all, the downside of intimate concert series like this is that there are too few visitors, and no-one makes any money out of, so it’s getting harder and harder for venues to program performances this  – since, well, after all, it’s all about the money. But sometimes, it’s not.

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James Murray * Kassel Jaeger

Kassel Jaeger - Aster

Heavenly Waters

JAMES MURRAY – HEAVENLY WATERS  Also on Spotify

His tenth album since 2008, and the third title in 2017: James Murray is feeding us a steady flow of quality ambient music. In recent years his name became more and more familiar because of his personal style, exquisite production and recognisable sound. But this does not mean he just keeps repeating himself.

On Heavenly Waters, Murray explores a sound that is somewhat different from that on his earlier releases. Hard to tell what it is exactly, but I feel that he chose for a more -let’s say- ‘scientific’ sound (by which I mean more electronic, industrial, machine-like) as opposed to the earlier earthy organic, guitar-based (?) sound. This is emphasized by including different sound artifacts, loops and glitches  that suggest machines at work autonomously. At some point in Equuleus I even thought I heard the the usually unwanted click-glitch that you will probably recognise if you ever burnt your own CDs on the wrong speed.
But not to worry: they are all added deliberately. It stíll is a genuine James Murray album, but in a somewhat different context.

Whereas many previous album titles  almost all referred to earthly matters (Floods, The Land Bridge, The Sea in The Sky), Heavenly Waters refers to one of the astronomical constellations as described by Donald H. Mentzel in his A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. The Heavenly Waters constellations (also knows as Cosmic Waters) are all associated with lake, river, sea creatures and ship … which in fact connects outer space to the previous earthly themes.
(And yes, I had to look all that up too, but I must confess the Wikipedia page did not explain much for me apart from the fact that there are no less than seven óther major constellations that probably each deserves its own follow-up album…).
Each track title refers to one of the sub-constellations within the Heavenly Waters constellation: Delphinus, Equuleus, Eridanus, Pisces Austrinus, Carina, Puppis, Vela, Pyxis, Columba.

Check these links if you’re interested in the astronomical details of the constellation that were the inspiration for this album.
But – maybe even better – just dón’t check these links but simply let the music on this album take you into the deep realms of outer space…


Kassel Jaeger - Aster

KASSEL JAEGER – ASTER  Also on Spotify

I would have loved to thematically connect James Murray’s ‘Heavenly Waters’ to Kassel Jaeger‘s “Aster”.
But I don’t think that there’s a connection, apart perhaps from the fact that some titles also refer to the stars (Set The Planet On Fire, You’ll Get A Star and L’Etoile Du Matin). And with a little bit of fantasy (and your eyes half-closed) the album cover (designed by Stephen O’Malley) could also be an image of some distant constellation of stars.
But however different they are, I still think these two albums fit together musically.

According to the liner notes, Kassel Jaeger (François Bonnet, current artistic director of the Groupe des Recherches Musicales) is one of the “premier explorers of electroacoustic mystical music, inheriting the wisdom of past masters (such as Pierre Schaefer) whilst forging a signature style of his own.”

The nine tracks on Aster present some recent recorded work as well as ‘works of revisits and reworkings”: “deep music replete with dark ambient sonorities swirling amongst intense buzzing tones.”
In fact I have little to add to that description…

The buzzing tones create layers of (seemingly) familiar sound environments – a distant hint of a melody slowly evolving almost hidden away in the soundscape layers. At other times there are sounds that don’t have that kind of familiar references  (like Un Autre Archipel, or Uminari), introducing an otherworldy kind of musique concrête.

Kassel Jaeger is a master of creating complex sonic atmospheres in the tradition of his earlier masters – but without becoming too academic about it.

BTW – There’s a remarkable difference in sound intensity between the tracks, which mean this album is not particularly fit to be played continuously in the background. Compare, for instance, Ner with Uminari immediately following it. This album is clearly meant for dedicated listening, not to fall asleep to!


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James Murray * Pleq

Floods Returned

Floods Returned

JAMES MURRAY – FLOODS RETURNED  Also on Spotify

James Murray‘s discography goes back to 2004, when he released a track as Sub on one of the legendary EM:T label compilations.  He releases under his own name, and his output seems to increase every year: three titles in 2016 and this is the third title only halfway through 2017.
Steadily working on his distinct, personal and intimate sound, he has become one of the landmark producers in the ambient/drone genre.

His previous albums were much praised for their style and content, but for a creative artist an album release is never a definitive version.
Floods Returned  revisits tracks from Murray‘s previous albums Floods, The Land Bridge and Mount View, a ‘biographical trilogy’ released between 2012 and 2014. 

Tracks from these albums are not just remastered but completely reworked:
“Simply to recombine a few elements on many of these productions is to invite another composition to spontaneously unfurl, often equally faithful to the spirit of my intent as the original.”

Like many artists do, Murray “is circling his private collection of hopes, fears, dreams and disappointments, looking at this strange assemblage from every angle, pushing and pulling to see what falls out”.

The titles still refer to the original tracks, so if you want you can compare these versions with the originals. But there are also added new title in brackets, indicating that they can best be seen as new compositions. 
Floods Returned 
simply feels like a completely new album.
Norman Records described this as “slow unfolding ambience that has the etherial uplifting qualities of Brian Eno’s Apollo” – not a compliment that should be easily given, but I think it just about nails it.


Re:Composition

PLEQ – RE:COMPOSITION  Also on Spotify

Re:composition is a different kind of retrospective compilation.
It is a collection of (eleven) remixes of Pleq‘s (Bartosz Dziadosz’)  music tracks that were previously released on many different label.

The common denominator of all remix artists is that they all have released music on the Dronarivm labels.
And that is quite a tribe: Philippe Lamy, Autistici, Segue, The Green Kingdom, offthesky, Olan Mill, Legiac, Aaron Martin, Elegi and Tomasz Mrenca. Each taking a different approach in de- and re-constructing Pleq‘s music.

Re:composition not only shows the versatility and inventiveness of his work, it also demonstrates that the Dronarivm artists share their artistic vision – facilitated by the label’s mission to “fulfill the expectations of music lovers of ambient and drone.”


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James Murray * Multicast Dynamics * Pjusk

Multicast Dynamics - Continental Ruins

Killing Ghosts

JAMES MURRAY – KILLING GHOSTS

James Murray has regularly been featured this blog: recently with his album Eyes to the Heightand before that with The Sea in the Sky, Mount View and, of course, his work with Anne Garner on Be Life.
Each album building on his reputation of a sound wizard capable of linking the abstract to the accessible in a very unique and personal way.

Killing Ghosts
his latest, is released on the renowned Home Normal label. Label curator Ian Hawgood recognised Murray‘s talent to ‘blur the line between deep electronics and textured ambience. […] The combination of melody and careful design [that] takes a huge amount of skill, care, and patience.’
The label is obviously extremely proud to present this album. Given the reputation of Home Normal for their past releases, that is about the best recommendation you can possibly get.
And one that I can wholeheartedly support!

Compared to earlier works, where his compositions sometimes felt like they were ambient instrumentations of vocal pieces (and sometimes they also were), James Murray takes a step further into creating abstract soundscapes. Killing Ghost is darker than its predecessors in this way. It’s different compared to earlier albums, in a way. But not thát different because it has all the great marks that we have come to know by now: personal, emotional, and with unequalled sound design.

The beautiful artwork from this album is painted by Małgorzata Łapsa-Malawskawhose motto is ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. (Which can be shortened to ‘Less is More’).

Also on Spotify


Multicast Dynamics - Continental Ruins

MULTICAST DYNAMICS – CONTINENTAL RUINS

Not even a year has passed since Samuel van Dijk (Multicast Dynamics) completed his four-part series Scape, Aquatic SystemScandinavia, and Outer Envelopes. Finland must be an inspiring country to live in!
His new album, Continental Ruinssounds like it could have been part of the quadrilogy: Van Dijk continues his sonic observations uninterrupted. But the concept, the story behind this album is slightly different: it is “inspired by decayed infrastructure – a sound documentary about sunken cities and continents, landslides and islands.”

‘Arctic’, ‘gloomy’, ‘submerged’, ‘desolate’ may be the key words to describe the musical palette created with “analogue synthesizers, arcane effect and manipulated field-recordings”, but at the same time the beauty of decay is attractive in a strange way. And very calm and organic, too. Probably because it bears the promise that new things, new life, will always grow from the ruins.

Also on Spotify

MULTICAST DYNAMICS – ANIMATED BEING


Pjusk - Syklus

PJUSK – SYKLUS

With three tracks (23 minutes), this (download-only) EP by Norwegian duo Pjusk (Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik and Rune Sagevikwill probably leave you hoping there’ll be more of this in the future.
Their last album (Drowning In The Sky, with Sleep Orchestra) was from 2014. Since then their output was limited to short 3-track EP’s, like this one. But does it matter? Three EP’s make up a full album, don’t they?

Syklus is a “celebration of friendship”: each track is a collaboration of the duo with a different artist, coming from every corner of the world: Canada (Loscil), Kurdistan (Porya Hatamiand China (SHAO).
Each of these artists has their own influence on the tracks, but the mini-album still manages to retain the consistent sound that we have come to know (and love) from previous Pjusk albums.

Also on Spotify

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James Murray * Michael Begg * Finglebone

Daubigny - Landscape by Moonlight

Eyes to the Height

JAMES MURRAY – EYES TO THE HEIGHT

James Murray is the label owner of Slowcraft RecordsHe is also the one that created the music of Anne Garner’s bewitching album Be Life, one of my personal favourite albums.

As a solo artists, his albums are always a surprise, because you’ll never know what to expect. Murray is always exploring different styles of electro-acoustic and experimental music: “switching things around when the time feels right.”

Eyes to the Height
, his seventh solo album, is “a ten chapter story reflecting the fragile beauty of life and loss, memory and function.”
It’s labeled ‘modern ambient’, but in fact it rises above a genre tag like that.
With the use of rhythms without losing the ‘ambient’ touch, this album manages to create a delicate balance of ‘pop’ and ‘ambient’ where many others have failed.

There’s a great attention to every detail: in sound production as well as in composition. The album is fully instrumental, but each of the ten pieces feels like a complete “song”.
Wouldn’t it be a nice experiment to create a vocal version of this album using these tracks? There are a lot of albums with instrumental versions of previously vocal tracks, but I’ve never seen that done the other way around.
It’s fun to think about where that would lead to. But let’s be clear: I don’t want to suggest that  something is ‘missing’ on this album. On the contrary!

There are only very few people capable of creating ‘quantum ambient’ music: music that is ambient and isn’t ambient at the same time.

Also on Spotify


A Moon That Lights Itself

MICHAEL BEGG – A MOON THAT LIGHTS ITSELF

In 2016, Michael Begg was commissioned to compose music based around the 19th century painter Charles François Daubignywho is considered an important precursor of Impressionism.
The music was performed in september at the Scotland National Gallery, by Michael Begg accompanied by cellist Clea Friend. After this performance, Begg completed the work in his studio.

A Moon that Lights Itself is dedicated to the work of Daubigny, who painted his nocturnal scenes from his  boat studio. It is conceptually linked to the invention of the phonautographthe earliest known device for recording sound, by Edouard-Lean Scott de Martinville in the same period (years before Edison’s phonograph!). The first ever recording of a human voice was Au Clair De La Lune.

That is a lot of conceptual background information, I know. But it helps to get the feel of this album, its atmospheres, and explains the reason for the ghostly Au Clair De La Lune theme in the track The Birth Of Modernism. 

You can trust Michael Begg to come up with a haunting album that matches this concept in every detail. Overall, the music is dark, like nocturnal music should be. But it’s not a darkness to be afraid of. It’s a darkness to dwell in… just imagine you’re drifting in a boat on a quiet lake, watching the night sky and the moon, and trying to capture that in painting.
Or in music.


Sunlit Plumes of Dust

FINGLEBONE – SUNLIT PLUMES OF DUST

Whitelabrecs (one of Harry Towell’s outlets of experimental electronic/acoustic music) rounds off its first year with this release by Finglebone, aka Adam VarneyAn album crossing the thin lines between folk/post-rock and electronic ambient. Adam’s finger-picking guitar adds a refreshingly bright sound to the imaginary landscapes, creating an “introspective world inhabited by the gosts of memories, the looming spectre of death and the passing of time.”

But it’s not a ‘dark’ album at all: the guitar strings, soundscapes and found sound mix is expressing “melancholy, reverie and the feeling of alienation.”
It’s a very personal album, “loosely based on Adam’s experience caring for his Grandfather during his final weeks. He witnessed how dementia would render him silent, lost in his own mind, but then release him back into reality.”

All but one of the eight tracks are instrumental pieces around 3-4 minutes in length. The exception to this is the 12 minute track Blazing Golden Sun, which features a poem by James E.M. Smith, “Grovely”, describing the local woods where Adam spent many hours as a child.

As usual for Whitelabrecs releases, the physical CDr edition has only 50 copies which will probably be gone soon.  

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James Murray; Offthesky; Mute Forest; Ugasanie

James Murray - The Sea in the Sky

JAMES MURRAY – THE SEA IN THE SKY
The Sea In The Sky is James Murray‘s sixth solo album (or seventh if you also include his collaboration with Anne Garner on their magnificient Be Life earlier this year).
While often abstract, his music is also very personal: dream-like, immersive drones unhiding a distinct melody (which may sound like a contradiction, but it really isn’t), electronic as much as acoustic never dark but focussing on etheric beauty instead.

All these qualities prove to be a perfect combination for picturing ‘the skies above’:
‘Ever-changing, unpredictable, suffused with esoteric patterns and directed by unseen forces, these oceans are a vast, dreamlike seascape of surreal dimension and spectacular, impossible beauty.’


Offthesky - The Serpent Phase

OFFTHESKY – THE SERPENT PHASE
Jason ‘Offthesky’ Corder’s ‘Serpent Phase’ has been five years in the making. It was originally conceived with the aim to create a series of piano sketches, taking recordings from Chicago, Switzerland, England, Canada, Colorado and Kentucky.
Other instrumentation was added later: vibraphone, guitar, synth, drums, vocals (Pillow Garden), violin (Julie Slater) and – of course – some textural field recordings.
The collection is contemplative and very atmospheric, but it is up to the listener to give it a deeper meaning: they “allow us to explore the religious, spiritual and moral connotations of dark and light periods in life.”


Mute Forest - Deforestation

MUTE FOREST – DEFORESTATION
“Deforestation” is not exactly a positive connotation, and if the very first vocal line is “I lie by your grave…”, you know this isn’t going to be about a happy day experience.
It’s a fundamentally unnerving theme: returning home to find things are not how you remember them to be. To find your childhood forest is slowly dying:
In a seemingly ceaseless acreage near his childhood home in the Rockies of Colorado, Kael Smith takes a deep breath and listens critically to the forest. It is not the same sound he remembers as a youth, when he’d disappear for hours deep into these woods. No, the sound he hears today is unfamiliar and vapid. Muted, really. Since Smith’s departure to the city of Denver, the Mountain Pine Beetle has moved into these woodlands and decimated the trees; devouring their insides and leaving empty husks in its wake.”
Though the instrumentation, with its elements of minimal electronic, ambient and folk, is somewhat different, the overall atmosphere of these songs is not unlike that of Boduf Songs, especially in the use of the hushed whispered vocals.
But there is beauty in depression, there is beauty in decay … and that is the kind of beauty that Mute Forest perfectly captures in these songs of loss.


Eye of Tunguska

UGASANIE – EYE OF TUNGUSKA
But we know destruction does not always come from the inside. In 1908, there was a large explosion near the Tunguska River (Russia), flattening 2000 square kilometers of forest (80 million trees), but causing no casualties. The cause of the explosion is thought to be a meteor, though no impact crater was found: the meteor is thought to have burst in mid-air. For 100 years this has been the source of many scientific studies.
But such an event can also be the source of legends and conspiracy theories.
One of these inspired Pavel Malyshkin (Ugasanie) to created this pitch black and icy cold release based on a ‘strange incident in the late 1990’s:
“A group of students went hiking to to see this legendary site. They lost their way after they decided to spend the night in one of the winter huts built by hunters of the land. Their mutilated bodies were later found near an old abandoned geological base with radiation burns.”

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