The ever busy James Murray (Slowcraft Records, Silent Vigils) has recently released this album via the Fluid Audio imprint. Recently I mentioned the Dauw and Eilean labels as victims of their own success. This is also attributable also to Fluid Audio who taken time and effort to construct impressive works of art that sell out almost instantly (only to re-appear via Discogs for inflated amounts). Such is the nature of highly sought after works. Much like his most recent works “Falling Backwards” and “Killing Ghosts”, both on Home Normal, this album has a theme running through its core. While “Falling Backwards” was a revisiting of childhood trauma and behaviour, “Killing Ghosts” about being haunted by loved ones and not so loved ones,  “Landscapes of Lovers” is dedicated to that which can be so hard to attain, hold onto and cherish – Love.

From The Fluid Audio Bigcartel page: “Romantic music can fall into saccharine, soppy, and sickly-sweet traps, but on ‘Landscapes of Lovers’, musician James Murray eschews and avoids these dangerous tropes, instead honing in on and finding the essence of love, and of what it means to love. Love is contagious, but a kiss is just one expression. Sometimes, tough love can be indicative of true love, even more so than an automatic reply of ‘I love you, too’.

“The album is a long-form symphonic electroacoustic work that unites my love of richly textures minimalism with some unashamedly romantic tendencies.” – James Murray.

Over the course of the two tracks “Landscapes of Lovers” and “And So Goodbye For Now”, Murray takes the listener on an ever winding journey through tones, at times bordering on orchestral soundscapes. Murray has an ability of creating long form tracks that are ever evolving, growing pieces of work. Some artists can rely on minimal elements and set about repeating them throughout the course of the piece, while others cram the proverbial kitchen sink into their pieces. There is an organic flow that is noticeable as Murray introduces electronic elements that highlight different moods within the drone soundscape.

I have a tendency to use the word “light” in my reviews. It’s a limitation of my writing for sure, but for me music that lets the “light” in is what captivates me. It’s this balance that can be created between light and dark, melancholia and joy, introspection and desolation. When you are talking about a subject such as love and musical that has been directly inspired by the concept, you need this balance. Because love is never plain smooth sailing. There are always good times and bad times, much like other parts in people’s lives, so the music must represent this. With the title track Murray keeps the balance in the light side of the equation, with slight passages in the middle of the piece where the darker tones, ones for me that represent where a sort of uncertainty lies. You can see the progression of the music that after this detour away from the light, that as the track moves on the more expressive it becomes, to the point that at the end of the piece it returns to more joyful tones before gently fading to silence.

James Murray - Live @ London Fields, 2016 - Photo by Asuna Arash
Photo by Asuna Arashi

The symphonic side that Murray mentions above comes out in “And So Goodbye For Now”. Sharing a similar sound pallet and instrumentation to the title track, the mood this time around is a bit more fraught with feelings and emotions. Lines are long and heavy with tensile strength, drones extend forever coated in despair and fragile piano lines break through the surface occasionally offering the tiniest shards of hope. The album like a coin, a story, has two distinct sides  that convey the blurred emotions that swirl when people are in love (it would be perfect on vinyl because of this). The music has a constant pace which makes it feel like it’s an in-depth study to a specific emotion or feeling rather than possible depths of despair. In the final minutes of the track the music starts to swoon with a grandeur and a kaleidoscope of sounds. It gives the listener the feeling, in relation to the title, that the two lovers have been re-united or that emotionally things are getting better. Space and silence become key in the final minute as the music gently comes to rest as if saying things are going to be all right.

If you are lucky, at the time of writing two copies remain at Norman Records with a handful remaining at the Slowcraft Bandcamp page.


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