WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the EIO40 community is being introduced to new sounds by discovering what music others are listening to, whether fresh off the shelves or something from the past that may have gone under the radar.
“Community Recommends” is an opportunity for members to write about an album or song that is a particular favourite of theirs and would like to share to the wider community. So have a read. You might like what you hear.
In this edition Rob Morgan (@durutti74) introduces us to …..
MURALS “Violet City Lantern”
It’s probably not a very indie place to start, but back in 1983 Heaven 17 recorded a song called “We Live So Fast” for their album “The Luxury Gap” and while the frantic drum machines and chirping synths have dated the song, the sentiments expressed – the speed of life, the need to press on, to move to the next new thing – seem more current than ever. In this decade there is an overabundance of choices available – from Netflix to Spotify to YouTube almost everything is available within an instant. We are saturated with entertainment shows and music, technology drives us to investigate everything until we are drowned – it is all too much.
These days it is hard to find the time to get to know a record, to listen to it intently and in a number of settings, to get inside the songs and let them inhabit your life. Remember how you felt when you had a new album by your favourite band? The weeks of playing it over and over, how it would infiltrate into your world, become the soundtrack to that week or month, that party, that night out, that kiss, that argument. Life and music in harmony, the soundtrack to your life.
But it rarely happens these days. The overwhelming overload of availability leads to instant decisions – play a few songs from an album, decide it isn’t for you, move to the next one. I know I’ve done that, guilty as charged. But over the last few weeks I’ve played one new album over and over again, allowing it to sink in like the old days. I wasn’t instantly impressed but over time, the music had wormed its way into my heart, become part of my life.
That album is “Violet City Lantern” by Murals.
As I said, the first few listens were frustrating. Yes it sounded lovely – oceans of reverb, splinters of guitar lines, a double tracked vocal style similar to Steve Mason in the Beta Band. But nothing truly jumped out at me, the songs tended to change direction for no reason, there were occasional instrumentals, sometimes the sound of rain. It was pleasant enough but I didn’t feel like persisting with it. But I carried on, listening in different settings – in the car, or on headphones around the house – and slowly it all clicked into place. Maybe it was persistence, or maybe there was one song acting as the key to unlock the other songs.
The key for me was the fourth song “White Wheel”. It fades in gradually, a miasma of twinkling guitars and xylophones over a martial drum beat, then a simple melodic vocal from Jacob Weaver, and the song jogs along happily, like a lamb dancing through a spring field of grass, while ascending brush strokes of autoharp punctuate the song. It’s a beautiful sound, hazy and vague but engaging. And once that song had cracked the code of Murals, the rest of the album fell into place.
I must admit I don’t know that much about the band, they are a four piece from Louisville in the US and this is their second album and I happened to stumble upon it on Bandcamp a few weeks back. I’m sure someone more diligent than myself would be digging in and finding out about the members, but sometimes it’s better to let a band’s music exist in its own world, without getting bogged down by details of who made the coffee and who strummed the guitars. This is that kind of record – one to clutch to your heart and cherish, unknowing the details which could spoil the spell.
I’ve avoided writing about the music because it’s tricky to describe. There are hints of Galaxie 500, The Beta Band, early Purple Ivy Shadows, the “Beach Boys in a school assembly” wonder of the debut Fleet Foxes LP, but all refracted through a gentle lysergic haze. There’s enough reverb to satisfy the keenest shoegazer, but absolutely no distorted guitars. Each song takes twists and turns in unexpected directions, but always makes perfect sense.
Take “Watching In The Dark” for instance – it starts in waltz time with a gorgeous guitar melody for a minute before slowing down into normal 4/4 time and a different melody for the main song, while still throwing in a bridge in double time around the three minute mark, before returning to the main melody, and a brief coda restates the introduction melody in waltz time. All the changes in tempo and melody sound completely natural, nothing is jarring or off kilter.
Each song had a unique feature – “The Swimmer” has delicate washes of piano and strings, “One Thousand Pictures” has a reversed rhythm track (reminiscent of “Amazing Journey” by The Who) – and the brief instrumentals dotted throughout the album act as welcome breathers, a chance to gather thoughts. In that way, it is similar to “Alaska”, the debut album by Northern Picture Library, another unique proposition.
“Violet City Lantern” is an album which exists on its own terms, has its own internal logic and makes no concessions unless the listener is prepared to give as much as the band. But this is also an album with charm and beauty to spare, a gorgeous concoction of melody which will reward multiple listens. It may not appear on any publication’s end of year albums list, but it is a special album which will remain close to this listener’s heart. Allow it a chance and you may feel the same way.
Recommended songs – “Violet City Lantern”,“White Wheel”, “I Live Here”.
Murals – White Wheel
Listen to the album on Spotify or other streaming services, or purchase it from www.themurals.bandcamp.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).
He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.
Thank you to Rob Morgan for taking the time to introduce us to Murals. Hope you enjoy the music as much as we have.
If you would like to contribute to this feature by writing about a song or album that you think others would like, then we would love to hear from you.