Following on from last year’s heralded ‘Killing Ghosts’, as well as his most recent collaboration with Stijn Hüwels as Silent Vigils, comes the latest long-player from James Murray. With a focus on childhood memories and the literal act of letting go, ’Falling Backwards’ is his most personal release to date.
We were lucky enough to witness James performing elements of this new work earlier in the year as part of the Spectaculare Festival in Prague. As James quietly and carefully constructed his pieces to the hushed audience, I took myself to the large architectural installation below with models of buildings with night lights shining on this modern yet desolate dream. It was the most incredible experience to hear the music from ‘Falling Backwards’ disperse over the audience and down into this auditorium for my own perceived personal benefit. With its warbled tones and fractured melodies, I couldn’t help but feel I was in the midst of an experience of pure science fiction; happily and playfully lost in some other world.
‘Falling Backwards’ is an album of incredible strength and hope, of personal tribulation and yet also triumph. It is a natural arc to the work of ‘Killing Ghosts’ as it breaks the barrier of things hidden and withdrawn, and shouts from the rooftops with its forceful awakening as the album evolves. It is an electronic masterpiece, yet I am hard-pressed to once again use the term ‘ambient’ here as it does not attempt to hide in the shadows. There is no meekness to James Murray’s latest work, and I am so proud to see such a true artist and sound designer wear his heart on his sleeve, fiercely beat his chest, and say ‘this is me, this is my song, and I will be unbowed’.
- Words by Ian Hawgood
When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn't control of my world, instead of losing my temper I'd go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. At home, in public, wherever, it didn't matter. Always backwards, vertical then inevitably, violently, not. After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time.
Recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain. The cognitive effects of this damage are unclear, best guess as to cause is historic trauma. I'd all but forgotten those self-destructive childhood descents, but this surprise transported me back at once to those earliest, strongest feelings, to the bitter intensity of that which first mattered most. The long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact. It's strange isn't it, the things we do to cope.
- Words by James Murray
'“Falling Backwards” shows off James Murray’s uncanny skill in delivering a whole universe that simply wraps itself around the ears like a fine blanket.' Beach Sloth
'The music on this record is so sumptuously immersive and achingly beautiful, you might be tempted to look past the vulnerability that likely had to be overcome to explore such personal territory so effusively, but that must have been no small leap of faith.' Stationary Travels
'The intention of the artist is clearly felt: the honesty, openness and vulnerability he’s not afraid to show. This can be felt and recognised – and probably is also one of many reasons why James Murray has become one of the more important artists/producers in this genre.' AmbientBlog
'Yes, I liked ‘Killing Ghosts”, the last James Murray album which I had the considerable pleasure of reviewing back in the depths of Winter 2017; now, finally here’s another thing of crystalline-pure beauty. Falling Backwards reveals its charms immediately, its feathery fronds extending a chill welcome from the outset. Layers of electronic drones are backed with warm washes of colour and shimmering acoustic strings tremolo like tree branches swaying in the Autumn breeze, chords falling away in slow motion like tumbling golden leaves in shafts of late afternoon sunshine.' Norman Records
'Realized with a kind of cursive grace, the seven tracks show strength in their stillness. As parts of the brain are held back by language, so it may be that in his organization of sound we find Murray's conceptions and emotions becoming concrete and communicable. From a palpable unease and the whisper of spirits, to electronic shadows and magnetized clouds, Falling Backwards provides a better expression in the harmony of tones.' Chuck van Zyl / Star's End
'There is no rush, no kitchen sink approach. Just a focus on construction, composition and sound design. If you liked the praised “Killing Ghosts”, you will love “Falling Backwards”. Recommended.' Drifting, Almost Falling
'Fragile Schönheit, bei der man sich selbst „fallen lassen“ kann, um sich von den Kompositionen von James Murray auffangen zu lassen, um weich in andere Dimensionen der Akustik vorzudringen. Verstehen kann man aus der musikalischen Sicht schon, warum James Murray oft verglichen wird mit Größen wie Jóhann Jóhannsson, Jan Jelinek oder Stars of the Lid. Der ausschlaggebende Aspekt dafür ist ein breites Musikverständnis und die Kombination von Gefühlen mit der Musik zu einer emotionalen Klangästhetik.' Aktuelle
'Comme avec Killing Ghosts, je n’ai pas d’extrait précis à vous citer pour illustrer précisément mon ressenti, car la cohérence et la progression de Falling Backwards sont encore une fois exemplaires, mais Living Treasure ou Unbroken Lines résonnent particulièrement avec les harmoniques de ma propre expérience et devraient vous convaincre indépendamment d’y consacrer la quarantaine de minutes qu’il dure.' Tartine de Contrebasse
'È un torrente che scorre implacabile rivelando attraverso il suono la sensibilità di un’artista disposto ad offrirsi totalmente. Avvolgente e coinvolgente.' So What Musica
'Dalle forze propulsive, opposte ma complementari, che guidano il lavoro risulta un percorso d’ascolto dagli spiccati caratteri cinematico-emotivi, che degli orizzonti interiori di James Murray offre uno spaccato di solenne coinvolgimento.' Music Won't Save You