In 2012, James Murray released Floods, a metaphorical reaction to annual flooding in the Welsh mountains. A meditation on loss, The Land Bridge, followed in 2013. The deeply personal Mount View completes this trilogy. Quiet and meditative, it still manages to convey a sense of hope.
As the old saying goes, you can’t go home again. The saying implies that while one can return in the literal sense, one cannot return in the spiritual sense – cannot recapture old glories, relive experiences as if they were happening again for the first time. Murray discovered as much when he returned to Mount View, the region of his youth. And yet, his particular purpose was to find closure, to bury a darkness, to eulogize, to “forgive and let go” ~ and in this he seems to have succeeded.
One can only imagine what “long shadow” had been cast over the artist’s life. The specifics are not essential to the appreciation of this disc. If anything, the empty line is an invitation to relate. What secret injuries are buried in our own pasts, forever connected, albeit unfairly, to geography? What manner of abuse, loss, heartbreak, betrayal? Are we strong enough to confront our ghosts, to make peace with them, to – dare we say it – be inspired by them?
Mount View is evidence that pain can be translated into beauty. This strange alchemy does not make up for suffering, nor does it necessarily lead to gratitude. It does, however, proclaim that pain, even permanent pain, can be relegated to the back pages of our lives – the indices, the addendum. Murray returns to bear witness: the past has not changed, but his perspective has. Mount View is freed to be, once again, Mount View.
Mount View is the fullest album of the trilogy, slow-moving, gently weaving its way to grace. Unlike the other albums, it resists efforts to pinpoint a highlight track. Instead, it operates as an extended meditation, built upon a base of sparse piano notes but laden with layers of electronics. At times one can imagine the ivory instrument as the protagonist and the light drones as a cotton comforter, a haze of blessings, a parcel of prayers. Something, somehow, is getting Murray through. And now we, the listeners, are given this gift in order to get us through as well. Each note is like the gentle touch of a hand on the shoulder, each chord a surge of empathy. This can be survived.
What’s next for Murray? We suspect that his music is about to turn a new page, no longer dogged by shadows, but incorporated into a wider tapestry. The floods have subsided, the land bridge has been built, and the view has changed. The sun is no longer shining somewhere else. (Richard Allen)