James Murray: Loss

Having laid to rest his Floods Trilogy (2012's Floods, 2013's The Land Bridge, and 2014's Mount View, all issued on his own Slowcraft Records), James Murray now turns his attention to a project of a rather different character, one that came into being in accordance with specific self-imposed guidelines.

Loss is an hour-long dronescape that Murray improvised live using four pieces of equipment (Roland D-110, TC Electronic G-Sharp, Zoom RFX- 2000, Korg MicroKontrol). In addition to being the document of a live performance, Murray included first takes only and allowed no subsequent editing to be done to the material. Not that one would know that from listening to it: Loss is as fully formed and immersive an audio tapestry as anything else in the UK composer's discography, and its six parts are held together by a consistent sonic character. Conceptually, the album is less easy to pin down, as one-word track titles such as “Endure,” “Certainty,” and “Loss” hint at states of experience in only the most allusive way.

But such indeterminacy doesn't lessen the impact of the music on its own terms. Representative of the album's overall style, “Hold” shimmers and shudders for eleven enveloping minutes, with organ-like swells hypnotically rising and falling against a layered backdrop of gaseous hiss, bass drones, and crackling punctuations. “Endure” works itself up to an even more dramatic throb, while the creeping “Forecast” and “Certainty” stoke incandescent electrical fires that are not all that far removed from the psychedelic caterwaul generated by LaMonte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music.

Be aware that Loss is what's come to be known as a ‘headphones listen' so anyone wishing to derive the maximum benefit from the material is advised to either strap on a good-quality set of headphones or play the album on a high-end system at a loud volume. Only then do the subtleties and nuances of the self-taught composer's slow-burning material come to the fore as strongly as they should for the recording to be fully appreciated.

February 2015