James Murray: Mount View
Slowcraft Records

Following upon the release of Floods in 2012 and The Land Bridge a year later, James Murray's Mount View concludes the UK-based artist's biographical trilogy in splendid manner. Issued on his own Slowcraft Records label as a hand-printed CD package or digital download, the forty-three-minute recording will more than satisfy those won over by the previous recordings' emotive tapestries. Once again, the self-taught composer presents stirring ambient-classical settings of ultra-fine delicacy and nuance.

No instrumentation details are provided, a move that suggests Murray wishes the listener to engage with the recording at the level of pure sound rather than fixate on instrument details. That being said, piano, guitar, organ, and electronics are presumably involved, with the guitar handled more as a textural element rather than as a conventionally played instrument. Each of the seven oft-hymnal settings unfolds at a slow and stately pace, with a simple rising or falling theme the track's melodic core. A case in point is the aptly titled “Long Light,” which stretches long trails of softly shimmering light across minimal ambient spaces, the music's plaintive quality strengthened by the downward descent of the melodic material. The organ-heavy title track and closer “Remains” suggest that Eluvium might be cited as a kindred spirit to Murray, given the meditative tracks' well-calibrated emotional intensity; “These Hands” similarly exemplifies his ability to generate an emotional effect that's tastefully restrained rather than overwrought. As a sound designer, he also shows great care in not overloading an arrangement with an excess number of elements while at the same time ensuring that the material doesn't become too stark or minimal.

The title, incidentally, doesn't refer to an imaginary locale but rather the first place Murray called home and thus has figured prominently in his life and memory. For him, returning to the place signifies resolution and closure, and consistent with that a clear sense of acceptance can be felt in the peaceful tone of the material. In Murray's own words, “Mount View is the vantage point from which I can best see things as they are, a place from which I can forgive and let go. It is the beginning and ending of all things.” Yet while Mount View does bring a major chapter in Murray's recording life to a close, don't think that it's the last we've heard from him, as two new works are already scheduled for release in the near future.

June 2014