Venturing into his soul chamber, English polymath unfurls pastoral panorama and pours a wondrous worry onto the peaceful picture.
Alistair Murphy has been molding deeply personal – or, given his real-life vocation and artistic alter ego, even personalized, open to any listener’s perspective – worlds for three decades so, in a demiurgesque manner, he amassed enough leftover ideas to sketch and flesh out a fresh one which feels much more fragile than what emerged before, as if the veteran was afraid of revealing his soft underbelly. It would be easy to assume Murphy did exactly that on "Inside The Whale", yet while the album he laid down in 2013 projected nocturnal fantasy, “Twenty-Six/12” – a reference to words and music – is full of daytime delights, as reflected in the record’s jacket, capturing a serene landscape in the morning and in the afternoon. More so, whereas Alistair’s previous works sacrificed intimacy in favor of concept – hence several cuts falling by the wayside then to appear here with a few original elements retained – now his innermost sentiments come to the surface.
For all intents and purposes, though, The Curator wouldn’t need to strictly stick to his own devices when there’s a landscape awaiting the capture for posterity, and you may not be too familiar with Wordsworth’s oeuvre to have your ears pricked at the sound of “lofty cliffs” in “The Light Of Setting Suns” – the ambitious-but-humble, multipart epic which serves as this album’s grand finale – yet it’s Murphy’s melodies that elevate the piece’s patinated poetry to a new level of immortality. Still, sweeping strings are only a single means among many in Alistair’s fractal arsenal, the vaudevillian opener “To Your Door” oozing desire via his ivories, Diana Hare’s smoky voice and Phil Toms’ bells before violin and sax kick in and stay to support the writer’s vulnerable delivery in “The Random And The Reason” whose wee-hours fatigue is hypnotic.
Equally barely-there but ethereal, rather than drenched in sweaty haze, the cover of Larry Norman’s “I Hope I’ll See You In Heaven” lets symphonic hope evaporate slowly, allowing a sad march towards eternal dawn to swallow the singers’ romantic rise. That’s why the madrigal of “Dark Seas” seems so overwhelming, with progressive passages which wrap Hare’s polyphony and The Curator’s piano in trance-inducing, billowing glory, as guitars shoot high and leave the woodwind in “New Leaves” to break chamber fragility. All this will set the stage for a different kind of drama that’s revealed once the record’s engulfed by silence and its chorales and choruses die down.
Remaining as aftertaste is spiritual uplift, something that Alistair Murphy has been honing for years yet found just at the current point of The Curator’s journey. And, seen from this height, there’s so much more to explore.