Ali Murray’s fourth release as the ambient and drone artist, The Lonely Bell, came out on Shady Ridge Records in late October. All of the music was written, performed, recorded, produced, engineered, and mixed by Murray with home recording equipment, and with Shady Ridge Records mastering. It’s runtime is 44:54.
Murray hails from a northern region of Scotland called the Isle of Lewis. It’s a historically rich and austere place, the geography of which, one could surmise, has a strong presence in Kingdoms Of The Deep. The first song, “Under The Storm,” opens with just over two minutes of high wind and a repetitive, murmuring synth in the background. At 2:10 it’s as if one’s taken underwater by what sonically evokes submersion. The wind is still there but it’s remote and obscured now by sparse and dense droning synths, while quiet gurgling like an exhalation of bubbles gives the listener the impression that they are truly underneath a storm like a fish, as the song title suggests. The submersion continues for four minutes until the song quickly fades out starting at 6:10. It’s an appropriate song to open the album with as it evokes the singular theme and concept of the album – kingdoms of the deep.
The second song, “Somewhere In The Baltic,” has in it’s very title a sense of the placeless or lostness. The first two minutes of this echoey song has sparse thrumming chords with a lot of delay and there is some guitar in there as well. It picks up intensity from 2:00 to 5:40, with various synths swimming atop a rhythmic and atonal wave-like pulse that really lends the song a sense of enormous movement and spaciousness. And also subtle, minimalistic guitar comes in after 4:00 that adds to the overall climax at the 5:40 mark. The last two minutes of the song shift into ocean field recordings with a contrastively shimmering, high-pitched guitar note that accentuates the low-toned field recording. It’s a very atmospheric song and it succeeds in its intent to instill the listener with a feeling and impression of the Baltic.
“Marine Life” is the third song and it’s an ethereal evocation of exactly that – marine life. But you will not hear from dark, unknowable, deep sea monsters on this one, rather you will hear from the most serene and friendly sea dwellers. This is the coral reef of the album. A repetitive guitar refrain warbles continually, then at 0:27 another guitar gently comes in and slides around a slippery melody. It’s dreamy and calming. If Somewhere In The Baltic expresses a sense of the placeless or lostness, then Marine Life expresses its opposite, which is home or belonging. Marine Life and “The Dancing Seagrass” bookend the middle and titular track, “Kingdoms Of The Deep,” and it seems only fitting to discuss them in their situated context. The Dancing Seagrass is, like Marine Life, a happy dream. It evokes its own title like so many, if not all, of the tracks on this album manage to do. It opens with twenty seconds of two chords on piano that playfully alternate, and underneath which hums an atonal drone. There are slight variations to the piano chords and again the noise of wind presents itself around 1:30. There is perhaps a marimba in there and at 2:04 an evanescent background piano at a higher octave supplements the melody until 2:44. It’s a truly magical song and akin to Marine Life in both being the bookends of the title track, which itself is extremely muddy, bleak, and unmelodic but striking nonetheless. The title track is extremely slow and evokes the immovable mass and impregnable mystery that is water.
Kingdoms Of The Deep contains plenty of variety within the bounds of the ambient genre in which its set. This is no small task and requires enormous creativity and thought to accomplish with any degree of sufficiency. I cannot recommend it enough.
You can stream and purchase Kingdoms Of The Deep by The Lonely Bell on Bandcamp: https://thelonelybell.bandcamp.com/album/kingdoms-of-the-deep
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