James Murray: The Land Bridge
Slowcraft Records

The Land Bridge, a lovely follow-up to 2012's Floods by London-based ambient/electroacoustic composer and multi-instrumentalist James Murray, makes good on the credo he's fashioned for his own independent label Slowcraft Records (on which the forty-minute album appears): to issue “careful, unhurried artworks of intensity, honesty, and depth.” It's a humbly presented yet beautifully crafted collection that hopefully won't get lost in the shuffle at a time when music is being released in ever-more plentiful quantities (Murray even seems to acknowledge the self-effaced understatement that characterizes his work in titling one of the tracks “Small Gestures”).

Minimal information is included with the release beyond noting that its contents were composed, performed, and produced by Murray, so the listener can't get sidetracked by details of instrumentation (though keyboards, electronics, glockenspiel, and guitar are audibly accounted for) and is instead encouraged to confront the graceful and oft-melancholy material on purely listening terms. In keeping with an album predicated on themes of patience, devotion, and loss, “Every Ringing Bell” introduces the album with five stirring minutes, the music's heartfelt tone largely attributable to the dominant presence of an organ's lonely cry. Elsewhere, ethereal wordless vocals add to the ambient scene-painting of the becalmed title track, sparkling swirls of organ patterns bolster the hymnal properties of the meditative “Be Held,” and “Lovers Leap” works simple piano brushstrokes and a hypnotic metronomic pattern into a lilting, slow-building pulse.

But as tempting as it is to do so, it makes less sense in this case to discuss the pieces individually and more to comment on the great care Murray has taken in fashioning delicately wrought compositions naturally geared towards inviting reflection and contemplation. As a result, listening to his humanizing material proves to be an intimate and genuinely rewarding experience.

August-September 2013