Charles Murdoch first created a stir in 2013 and now returns to stir things up again with a record that is more emotionally complex than you might think at first.
Based in Brisbane, Australia, Charles Murdoch has finally released his debut album after keeping music lovers on the edge of their seats since his 2013 remix of Flume’s “Sleepless”. Joining him on this journey are a wide range of guest vocalists including Ta-ku, Oscar Key Sung, Wafia, Hak, KUČKA and Chloe Kaul, resulting in not just another star-studded LP, but a solidly entertaining and tasteful recording that pleases multiple senses. Like many records before this one and many that are sure to come after, this one starts at the beginning.
That beginning is the track “Nothing For You”, featuring KUČKA and it’s a haunting and slow-building number that provides us a fitting introduction to this artist who doesn’t over egg the pudding twixt that moment and the last. From there we’re treated to the “Frog”, track previously issued as a single and featuring the powerfully seductive vocal work of Ta-ku, Wafia and Hak. At times reminiscent of some of the better moments found on Massive Attack’s 1991 classic Blue Lines (think: “One Love”), the pieces carries us through a moving four-and-a-half minute journey that is cathartic, memorable and the perfect setup for where the record takes us next.
That next is the piece “Straws”, a number more focused on the danceable, the ethereal but still an impressive well of musical catharsis that makes it possible to imagine that Murdoch couldn’t keep the vibe going. But keep it going it does, especially on the moving and gorgeous “Open”, featuring Chloe Kaul (who turns up on another great track from the record, “Fray”). Some might argue that the atmosphere is heavy on those early numbers and so that by the time we reach the halfway mark we haven’t been dazzled with diversity or been asked to bring a series of disparate sounds together inside one glow stick lit tent. But there is a lot to be said for uniformity and subtlety and Murdoch is subtle in those differences, gently moving us from one pole to another and never forcing the issue.
The sometimes dark, sometimes foreboding “Wash” is a fine example of how he works in an emotional and musical counterpoint to the rest of the material. It’s a storm of rhythm and melody that bounces the listener across the waves of the high music seas before seeing them safely to the shore and preparing them for the record’s final moments, the excellent “Privacy”, featuring Oscar Key Sung.
It remains to be seen, of course, if Murdoch will make this a template for future releases or if he’ll continue to take us on new and unfamiliar journeys each time. No matter, though, it seems that this is one of those artists capable of doing virtually anything. That’s one of the pleasures of getting in (more or less) on the ground floor with an artist, discovering their earliest intentions and seeing where the muse and music takes them. Should be a wild, wonderful ride if Murdoch can sustain and this vision and that seems entirely possible at this moment.