William Cody Watson: Bill Murray

“Dedicated to and specifically crafted for the man himself,” we're informed, indicating that William Cody Watson's entirely sincere in naming this release after the enigmatic and elusive actor. Perhaps more importantly, Watson describes Bill Murray as “the most important piece of music I've ever made,” and the aural evidence suggests we should take him at his word. Offsetting the light-spiritedness of the album title is the approach used for the album sides, which are called “Untitled, In 6 Movements” and “Untitled, In 5 Movements” respectively. And though the sides are purportedly untitled, Watson does, in fact, give the movements titles, even if the sides are best broached as seamlessly unfolding entities containing episodes of oft-contrasting character.

Side A begins with ambient-dronescaping of clandestine (“Night, Hello”) and shimmering (“Coffee Still Life”) character before plunging into noisier territory in its central sections. While rippling textures do combust throughout (presumably) “Burning Cloud,” said sounds don't overshadow the melancholy tone of its drift, and while quieter passages are present, there are comparatively aggressive sequences, too, as is heard during the explosive swarm of “Burning Harp.” Interestingly, though, the affecting quality of the material isn't obliterated by the distorted treatments but instead manages to come through clearly, much like radiant sunlight piercing through stormy cloud cover. It's a move Fennesz pursued indelibly on Endless Summer, and not surprisingly there are moments on Bill Murray that strongly evoke the sound Fennesz captured so powerfully on his recording. Bringing the side to a satisfyingly well-rounded close, shimmering organ and synthesizer tones rise to the surfaces of “Walking Home” and “Lost Again, Demon,” with the material inviting comparison to Popol Vuh during the side's ethereal, mist-drenched close.

The second side's “Spectre” picks up where “Lost Again, Demon” leaves off, suggesting that in a perfect world Bill Murray would be experienced as an uninterrupted forty-minute whole. The balance Watson strikes during the B-side's opening minutes is lovely indeed, and the listener is easily seduced by the music's restful quality and its sequences of subtly mutating tonal colour. Halfway through the side, the material assumes the form of a nebulous mass of slow-motion drift before morphing into a gleaming organ drone of more crisply defined character. The melancholy, dream-like quality of the piece never diminishes, however, especially during the more subdued second side, and Bill Murray begins to resemble a waking dream preserved into physical form. As a final note, it bears worth mentioning that Watson is credited on the release with “Melody / Atmosphere / Tone / Structure,” a detail that seems wholly apropos given how integral all four aspects are to this thoroughly engrossing recording.

September 2012