James Murray

James Murray - Loss, CD cover with clouds, a pink stone, a faded map


“Loss” is split into six tracks, but it should be thought of as a long-form ambient drone. As a life has many different aspects to it, so too does the music shift and weave throughout its one-way journey. The music leaves behind slow and cautious footprints. Murray’s drone is very much alive, and it progresses from infancy to old-age; it’s always developing. The music has its calm spells, but the unpredictability of life produces unsteady moments, and there are always a couple of experiences just around the corner ready to try and tear us down. It’s never black or white, and it’s certainly never, ever straightforward — that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? The white, stormy strobes of lightning are always on the horizon, and in the music they pulse to the drone’s regular rhythm.

The drone shoots out a beacon of dull light, charged with the incredible, incendiary voltage otherwise known as human emotion. The music waits for the dagger of loss to strike, and it splinters on impact as and when this dagger arrives. The music itself materialises from out of nowhere. A first drone hums and throbs quietly, but another soon swells with a ferocious, deep intensity that supports and warms the first with its body heat, protecting the music from the ice-cold sensation of loss. Like life, the music’s made up of first takes only. Not one second will be repeated, and likewise there’s no editing behind “Loss” — it’s the raw, true experience. No second chances. It plays out as it should — the way things are naturally supposed to happen. As such, it has an experimental side, but Murray is always in control.

We get a feel for things on the opening drone ‘Find’. Its dull texture never really brightens up. ‘Endure’ starts off with a higher tone, but a lower texture slowly intrudes, clouding the sky with uncertainty and a slight sense of trepidation. As in life, the music has its darker passages. ‘Endure’ is that period. ‘Forecast’ has an ominous, eerie drone that hovers close to the soil. The dark, sunken clouds surrender their possessions in a deluge of rain. The piece moves slowly, glacial in its movement, but it’s always passing through the mountains of time. The final drone, ‘Loss’, throbs with a lower bass that sits just under the surface, its undercurrent a consistent, fluid motion. It’s really refreshing to see Murray dive deeply into drone music, and to do it with such a real sense of purpose. Patience is the key to enjoying the music. It is minimal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not progressing. Some would view a one-take recording as a constraint, but music was always supposed to be like this, and it’s a thrill to not have a second bite of the cherry.





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