Last year James Murray impressed us with the elegant Floods, an aural reflection of the rising and receding waters that annually threatened his childhood home. This time around, his subject is more general, but more relatable: “patience, devotion and loss”. That last word ties the two works together; we are always losing something, whether it be land or love or memory, and need something outside of ourselves to get us through. For Murray, that something seems to be the presence of others, which inspires him to write about arms outstretched, fingers held and the presence of hope. Track titles such as “Closeness”, “Small Gestures” and “Give Blood” intimate that he believes in the human capacity for good, and has experienced such generosity himself. And so, even though this music is forlorn, and the album concludes with “Lovers Leap”, one trusts in the direction it is headed – not, as some might suspect, off a cliff. In fact, one might reverse the press release to read “loss, patience and devotion” to better understand its trajectory. One does not actually need to leap from Lovers Leap; one may look, consider, retreat and move on. It’s impossible to record an album once one is dead, and something pulled Murray back from the brink and inspired him to write about his experiences, either as cautionary tale or empathetic gift.
As one might expect, The Land Bridge is sparse, with a great deal of space between the notes. This tendency is established early, as seven seconds separate the glockenspiel chimes of “Every Ringing Bell”. The glockenspiel is not a particularly lonely instrument, so it may be argued that the only way to use it to convey that emotion is to slow it down. As soft keyboard sounds arise in the background, one begins to think of the slow recovery one faces after deep loss: the way the emotions seem caught in molasses, unable to tear themselves free. On “Closeness”, the piano notes are separated, as if in defiance of the title; a yearning for closeness is the impetus. The title track, the album’s centerpiece in position as well as power, brightens the scenery with vocal and string tones, implying connection and warmth. Despite the darkness of the next piece, at least one shadow has just been lifted. By the concluding piece, the glockenspiel notes have drawn closer to each other, offering consolation and comfort. A bridge has been crossed. In the words of Elizabeth Bishop, The art of losing isn’t hard to master, although it may look like (Write it!) disaster. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 26 July