James Murray – Killing Ghosts

Transparent and tender, the opening drone of Killing Ghosts, the latest sublime piece of music from James Murray, is wrapped up in a thin muslin of tiffany blue…

A playful melody floats above a clumpy left-foot right-foot rhythm, and as it does so, a door slowly swings open, letting in a rectangular trickle of lambent light. As soft as play-doh, the drone continues to hover and progress, and deeper down, under the bed of fertile sound, a sub-bass gently rocks the music. Even this is amiable. It affects the music by making it sway from side to side, not so much an earthquake as it is a soft tremble, rousing it from a deep sleep with a couple of well-timed nudges. It rumbles in a subdued way, without any ominous attachments or premonitions of thunder.

Killing Ghosts is a naturally-developing and carefully sculpted world of sound. Things cannot be rushed here. Patience is very much a virtue, because thoughtful, considered sound design needs time to breathe and brood. Composed feelings of peace and acceptance permeate the entire album, and it humbly plays on, never retreating towards timidity but rather embracing humility.

Cool electronics gather on the ground like a nightly frost, the sprinkled, sparkling crystals of ice a group of frail and innocent children. Visibility is reduced to no more than a few feet here, but you can just about glimpse a family of lighthearted drones. The notes are composed out of a fragile substance; ever changing, transparent webs that can be torn apart by a touch of air. Swooning drones and lightheaded piano melodies help to lift the music up. Like a balloon, they were born to float, but the rhythm acts as a temporary net, guiding the melody back to the earth, almost acting as a substitute for gravity itself.

A sprite-like light fills the album from start to finish. The electronics gently buzz, like sedated cicadas in tall grass, only lightly brushing the sides of a thin drone and the leviathan-like thrumming of a sub-bass. The whole album progresses naturally, finding a path of least resistance, flowing like fresh water. ‘Soldier, Returned’ is light, too, but it can’t quite shake off the grounding bass. It’s like a heavyset emotion – or a deeply traumatic memory – that sticks like glue to the mind, affecting its daily life.

The twinkling chimes of ‘Second Sight’ promise something eternal as they look up at the stars of long ago, not necessarily dead for millennia but something shining onto the present; the ghosts of our loved ones living on in the very starlight.

‘I want to believe so badly…in the endless procession of souls, in what cannot and will not be destroyed. I want to believe we are unaware of God’s eternal recompense and sadness. That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. But only waits to be born again at God’s behest, where in ancient starlight we lay in repose.’ – Fox Mulder.


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