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James Murray - Where Edges Meet


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Artist: James Murray

Title: Where Edges Meet

Label: Ultimae Records

Released: 17th Dec 2008

 

Tracklist

 

1 Awayward (6:45)

2 Colour Has Its Own Language (9:03)

3 Outside Context Solution (8:19)

4 Gaijin (5:30)

5 Fear Of Falling (6:18)

6 Where Edges Meet (7:18)

7 Empty Spaces (6:08)

8 Eleven (9:43)

9 Invisible People (8:50)

 

London Based electro-acoustic sound artist James Murray is out with his debut album on Ultimae Records. Having had great tracks on the compilations Oxycanta – Winter Blooms back in 2007 & Spiral Trax – Ease Division 3 earlier in 2008 put some expectations on this album. Often artists I expect a lot from don’t reach my sky high expectations but James has managed not only to reach them with Where Edges Meet but to surpass them by quite a distance. This album, for me, eclipses the other Ultimae releases in 2008 quickly becoming one of my favourite chillout albums of the last few years.

James has blended lush electronic soundscapes with acoustic elements magnificently into a moody urban tale. Piano & violin merge with glitchy electronic sounds fluidly making this sound not so much like simple electronic ambient but a profound journey through the inner mind and outer views. Imagine walking through a city at 5am, the air is cold & still, movement is limited to a few other souls on which side of slumber you don’t consider. The usual urban sounds are there but weaker, allowing the natural elements and the song in your own head the perception they require. It’s all very peaceful and lovely.

 

I really like all the tracks here but even on a great album like this there are standouts. The cold lonely beauty of Gaijin is heightened by the hi-tech noises in the background of the intro, the strings & piano play haunting melodies giving a real sense of isolation. The wind rushing through Fear of Falling is a nice example of how James adds natural sounds to the music adding a real narrative feeling to it. The title track Where Edges Meet for me perfectly sums up the whole album. The main melody effortlessly glides along creating an atmosphere so filled with emotion that one could almost weep at its beauty.

 

This is just an album that you can listen right through, great flow and it feels so much like you are being told a story. The music is so vivid, describing a cold melancholic urban fairytale that draws you in & before you know it the hour is up and you are ready to take the trip again. This is one you can listen to many times over & it still sounds fresh. The melodies are beautiful and haunting but they are the kinds that don’t get stuck in your head and you will find amazing each time they are played.

 

One of the best albums released on Ultimae Records and that really says a lot coming from me as I am a really big Ultimae fan. This is pure audio art (& visual art if you count the lush 16 page booklet) that I will be able to appreciate for years to come I’m sure.

 

Track by Track Analysis

 

1. Awayward

We start off soft and dark, the piano sounds are in the forefront of the imagery but lurking behind are glitchy sounds both urban sounding & natural like running water. It’s all very gloomy and when the beats kick in it adds energy without any lift. It’s like leaving your lover’s house too early in the morning with the prospect of work all too imminent.

 

2. Colour Has Its Own Language

The muttered voices in the intro sound like they are overheard snippets not meant for me but that hold an appeal like secrets on the wind. When the melody comes in it feels strangely warm, like winter sun beating down on my face when I’m surrounded by frost. Everything else feels cold but the melody is bright & sharp. When the melody goes I can feel the wide open space I have found myself in. The minimal ambient sounds like something is lurking almost menacingly but when the melody creeps back in it alleviates any misgivings and once again wraps me up and makes me feel a strange warmth.

 

3. Outside Context Solution

A sharp melody & accompanying synth scythe through the intro making way for some lush bass and shuffling beats. Like raindrops dripping from your beautiful lovers nose as the light refracts a rainbow through them. You’re still standing in a rainstorm but it’s much more beautiful than you’ve experienced it before. The steadier beats feel like harder rain & when the music breaks down leaving us just with an electro flute style melody I can feel an awkward sensation like I have missed something important because I was transfixed on a stunning but unimportant rarity. With the re-emergence of the melody though I can feel myself slipping back into my own little world.

 

4. Gaijin

The disjointed flute at the beginning here really sets a moody of self reflection, the glitchy hi-tech sounds that follow the brief piano melody set me in a big city & the string melody makes me feel alone. The sense of being surrounded by a crowd of people but being totally alone is punctuated half way through when the melody seems beautiful yet haunting like the inner demons are preying on your mind and the whole world just rushes passed you barely even acknowledging your existence lost in a world you don’t belong in.

 

5. Fear Of Falling

The cold wind & deep vibrating melody makes me feel like I am high up on a not so stable platform. The photograph in the booklet of the ski lift is a perfect representation of the music. High above a clear white world, cold melodies rushing passed you, looking down at how beautiful everything is but with a slight reservation. You don’t want to lean out too far to get that glorious view in case you fall and be terminated by the beauty of the world. The beats are quite strong and steady pushing us steadily higher, vibrating synths continue as a reminder of where I am even as the atmospheric drones try to push me into an ethereal dreamlike state. This is a great visual track.

 

6. Where Edges Meet

The title track starts off with just a strange oscillating sound for the first 30 odd seconds but as the music snaps into place, melodies fly in from high above like a cascading sonic downpour of emotion. Such sadness is not often represented so acutely. The beats just accentuate the feeling and the long synth drones multiply the feeling twice over. This could be my favourite chill track of 2008, packed with so much feeling even after 50 or more listens I am still blown away by it. A fantastic track with excellent progression and emotion.

 

7. Empty Spaces

This has a darker feeling from the beginning here with dim bass rumbles & a distant bell tolling with a matt finish. The beats similarly have a very flat, unpolished feel to them but not in a bad way, in a simple understated way. The melodies are restrained and the whole track feels like it is giving me breathing space, time for my brain to work on it’s own, imagine its own story and discover its own way of thinking only slightly aided by the beautiful chimes coming through the walls.

 

8. Eleven

A haunting melody & other deep yet sharp melodic sounds fill the entire intro here setting a scene of sombre reflection. The melodious elements filter out briefly leaving us only with a subtle sporadic percussion like a heart that’s not quite beating the way it should. A heavy heart too dispirited to allow the brain to wallow in its gloomy sorrow. The melody creeps back in though like those thoughts we want to lock away but that will always seep back into your consciousness like a bad penny. I don’t know the significance of the number eleven but going on the feeling of the music it could be eleven years since the loss of a soul mate.

 

9. Invisible People

A very soft ambient track to end on, quite minimal on the surface but teeming with life if you dip your head below the glimmering top. Lots of glitchy noises all over the place here in a seemingly random way. It’s very unstructured until the beat comes in to try and give it some direction but it still feels to me like I am looking down into a pond of green water and small goldfish that dart this way & that chaotically yet managing to give me a feeling of serenity at the same time. As the track goes on the glitch is filtered out slowly until only a long atmospheric drone is left to shepherd me back to world.

 

 

Art

As with all Ultimae releases this album has exquisite artwork. The cover although nice does not do justice to the photos included in the booklet. The pictures on the page relating to each track are very good representations of music. My favourite is definitely Where Edges Meet a wonderful pictures of birds in front of a yellow sky with the sun setting behind the clouds. Under the clouds are trees and what looks like a construction site. Above the clouds, high in the sky is what looks like fields and trees but it is subtle enough that it fits and I only noticed when I really looked. Like the album, subtleties that may require some focus to fully appreciate but well worth the time.

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Straight from the first listen I felt like home, in my opinion, this is the best Ultimae release this year. I even feared the label was going in wrong direction with their latest releases, though I Awake was quite good, but a bit misplaced and under-worked.

 

Edges met successfully here after very worm journey. Ultimae are back on track with Solar Fields album, HUVA Network, Asura (and I hope Aes Dana too) in line-up for this year.

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  • 1 month later...

This is definitely up there with Movements for me. It's really good.

 

When Edges Meet is probably my favorite track.

 

Yes actually it is, it's just a great great wonderful release.

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  • 2 months later...

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