In the spring of 2014 my wife and I stayed at a remote log cabin in the Black Mountains. Anne was taken ill from the moment we arrived and barely left the bed all week. I'd packed a laptop, small midi keyboard and portable hard disc recorder, and resolved that if we weren't to have a break together I'd at least salvage something from the trip.
I'd spent a lot of time around then thinking about how haunted we are by our lost loved and not-so-loved ones. About how these ghosts can be more than just absences, that they can actually exist in some real sense as shadows cast by our fears and regrets. The horse-whisperer who owns the cabin told us when we arrived of the local belief that up in those mountains the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. From the first nightfall to the very end of our stay I felt like the atmosphere in that place was charged, agitated somehow, like everything was on the verge of cracking.
Pines groaned in the woods all around us, walls and floorboards continually creaked and china rattled on the shelves. I recorded everything that made a sound, then manipulated and distressed those recordings, letting them bleed into one another, forming their own shifting rhythms and gritty, grainy textures. I added deep sub-bass sines, electronic washes and gently improvised motifs that felt in step with the strangely watchful energy of the place. Between the crackling of the open fire and the wild, wide landscape outside, I seemed to have stumbled into the perfect environment for exploring these unsettled yet tenderly nostalgic feelings I'd been having. The music flowed.
And now - thanks to Gosia Łapsa-Malawska's wonderfully plaintive artwork and Ian Hawgood's passion, belief and commitment - here is Killing Ghosts, my attempt to make some sense not just of that peculiar time, but of each and every day spent without those we leave behind.
We came across the work of James Murray through his excellent Slowcraft Records label. In 2012 he released what was to become a bit of a seminal work that year in the highly praised ‘Floods’. He has since released superb records on a number of friends’ labels such as Eilean, VoxxoV, as well as a recent return to the Ultimae label.
I’ve personally known James for a number of years now after meeting at various shows around London, and we have talked and come very close to releasing music together over the years. As with all things where patience and honesty are involved, it has taken us to this point to finally bring something together that we are so thrilled to present now to you.
James’ work typically blurs the line between deep electronics and textured ambience. Yet in ‘Killing Ghosts’, James presents a truly perfect melding of exquisite sub-bass melodies under the surface of playful tones and fractured rhythms. The album itself has a feel of slow change and evolution as it journeys from the melodiously open electronica of ‘Footsteps’ and slowly down the rabbit hole as it waves us out with tracks such as ‘Allways’ and ‘Living Ghosts’.
The work embodies everything that is great about the work of this enormously talented artist as beyond its catchy entrance points, it is possibly one of the best examples of pure sound design we have been fortunate enough to release to date. Such a combination of melody and careful design takes a huge amount of skill, care, and patience, and we are so happy we have finally been able to all come together to release what is quite simply a genuine highlight in our eight years of existence as a label.
Written and Produced by James Murray in the Black Mountains and at Slowcraft Studio
Artwork by Małgorzata Łapsa-Malawska
Design by James Murray, Christian Roth and Ian Hawgood
Mastered by Ian Hawgood
'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.' James Catchpole (Fluid Radio)
'Killing Ghosts est une œuvre d’une rare beauté à manipuler avec prudence et à pénétrer avec délicatesse, mais récompensera ses explorateurs patients et parés à s’y fragmenter. Nulle crainte que cet album sera apprécié à sa juste valeur par ceux qui savent, et restera longtemps le compagnon de ces éternels chercheurs d’ailleurs qui souhaitent secrètement ne jamais le trouver; car ce qui compte, c’est le voyage et non la destination.' Dotflac (Tartine de Contrebasse)
'...personal, emotional, and with unequalled sound design.' ambientblog
'Un racconto cesellato con attenzione e cura da Murray, un’immersione affascinante che ne conferma il grande talento.' So What Musica
'That Home Normal's Ian Hawgood describes Killing Ghosts as “a genuine highlight in our eight years of existence as a label” says much about the high quality on display, and just as he has done many times before, Murray once again demonstrates a remarkable sensitivity to texture and balance in his creative work.' Textura
'...these are not these are not mere abstract soundscapes or pastoral musings. There is an even greater alchemy at work here, a visceral sense of isolation and soul-deep reflection somehow conveyed purely through sound and a complete erasure of the lines between exteriority and interiority as the artist struggles to “make some sense not just of [a] peculiar time, but of each and every day spent without those we leave behind”. Immersive, captivating, and deeply personal, it is one not to be missed.' Stationary Travels
'There are many fine moments to ruminate over here: the vaporous techno daydream of “First Hand”, the enveloping dread of “Living Ghosts”…Murray again proves himself a sound art auteur of rare imagination.' Foreign Accents
'Il est certain que tout comme moi, les amateurs de voyages sonores chercheront à se replonger pendant de nombreuses années, dans celui que vient de nous proposer l’artiste.' Dive Into Sun
' The textures in this album are fabulous! As the tracks move forward, the drones become more ghostly. A lot of glacial wind atmospheres and objects rattling in the wind. Evocative, evolving spectrums - purely beautiful!' Margaret Harmer (Bandcamp)
'Spectral slithers and hints of long-passed raves creep through the oozing sub-bass. Careful sound design reveals icy breaths of drone. Weighty, stalking swathes of noise-fug at first obscure the slow-mo trance and techno that lurks beneath. But when the mist clears, patterns of rhythm and joyous, revelling figures emerge. I’m coming over all wistful. My genuine reveal of the day, there. Embrace that, dear reader.' Norman Records
'I sette brani che formano il lavoro disegnano in tal modo un percorso, un’evoluzione di timbriche avviluppanti, che saturano gradualmente lo spazio sonoro entro il quale James Murray dispensa correnti ambientali ipnotiche, destinate a catartici orizzonti interiori.' Music Won't Save You
'Au total, cette forme de prudence qui caractérise la manière dont James Murray associe ses éléments et confectionne ses morceaux n’aura alors d’égal que le charme qui s’en dégage.' Etherreal
'BEST OF 2017' LISTS