James Murray – Heavenly Waters

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere” – Carl Sagan

Heavenly Waters is, as you’d expect from its calming title, a peaceful ambient ride, resting up above rather than on a body of Earthly water, because its real home lies among the dusty pillows of sleepy, dying stars. Although not completely still, the slow dawning of ‘Columba’, with its indigo, effervescent tones that fizzle and are then scattered out into the depths of space, charts the initial course for the rest of the album to follow as it shines its celestial lights.

The Heavenly Waters, a family of constellations, shine on and on, lit up by a thin, dim and tenebrous piano. The music, like the starlight, is able to sparkle despite arriving from the distant past (Heavenly Waters was many years in the making), the starlight itself producing an ambient nectar of light despite coming from light years away. Everything affects something else, and the delayed reaction of the light means that it only now glows upon our fragile skin.

Hanging in the dark exotica of space, electronic notes stutter and skittle-like tones record blips of unknown origin. Space may be an empty vacuum, the ultimate dead zone, but these notes hint at something more. They’re meticulous in design; hand-crafted in the heart. As they bounce and jitter uncontrollably, they provide intermittent rhythms of their own making, like lives left to chance, as well as providing a deeper contrast to the interstellar ambient atmosphere, which is dark bordering on pitch-black, save for the silver sprinkling of its stars. Flung out into the cosmos, the music burns rather than twinkles, an ever-so-bright point of light that’s comforting in spite of the black, eerie silence of the Universe, and surprisingly warm in spite of its merciless asphyxiation of our life-giver, oxygen.

Life-sustainment is absent. Where are our neighbours? What are we doing here? Are we just a fluke, living in exile on the outstretched arm of a galaxy? Or is there more? The music doesn’t just hint at wider things – it beams them out like a powerful solar flare. The music both lives in the never-ending Universe and is a part of it, composed out of it, appearing in an aria of unseen waves and frequencies. A cluster of ambient tones paradoxically point the way towards an incredible vastness, of something so massive in size, volume and density it just cannot be comprehended; the almighty breadth and the mind-boggling size is almost an insupportable weight in a weightless atmosphere. This is reassuring, though. As Carl Sagan once said,

The absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence


The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.”

James Murray constructs his own constellation, with each track transforming into a mass of melatonin, sparkling in the depths. Shiny, gleaming notes quake with an ominous rumbling, adding layers of awe to ‘Eridanus’. Mystery mingles with the slight discolouring of foreboding, because this was supposed to be our home…so why does it feels so alien? So close and yet so distant, so dangerous and yet so calm. The Universe is very much alive; we’re stuck inside its nebulous womb, and not necessarily protected, either. Just look at the dinosaurs.

Frothing drones are in a seemingly endless process of dissolving. The uncluttered music helps to feed the imagination. We live inside its cosmos. We connect to the light, and just like the starlight itself, Heavenly Waters provides a light that illuminates the gathering spider-webs of darkness.


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