Free from being a keeper a curiosities and out of Cromer, weaver of inner worlds immerses himself in gloom to see the light afresh.
Every physical journey is also a voyage in one’s self, and that’s something Alistair Murphy knows too well, venturing in and out of his followers’ perception for years now – leaving them stranded, to wander and wonder, and picking them up further up the road, as the veteran artist’s always been ahead of the curve. And this time moving in his wake may seem dangerous, yet the thrill is worth the chase.
While 2020’s "Twenty-Six/12" displayed romantic transparency, its successor might be the darkest epistle The Curator has ever sent to his listener, yet Alistair’s poetry can still take you to strangely magnetic places. This is why the deceptively despondent drone of opener “Something New” will slowly unfold to reveal brass-splashed freshness under Murphy’s almost-spoken word, the piece’s crystalline vibe emphasizing the melody’s folksy aroma before a six-string lace wraps the nocturnal swing, with mesmeric effect, into a swirling cocoon. That’s where the playful pop-acceptance of the violins-drenched “Giving Up (And Letting Go)” comes from to anchor mundane reality to Jez Salmon’s gutsy twang and joyous jangle, as well as a fatigued defiance of “We Go Down” whose retro dance must peel patina off one’s organ-oiled memory lane and turn the singer’s solemn stroll into a sweet moonlit dream.
As a result, there’s no surprise in the triumphant drift and riffs of “An Old Man’s Dreams” that’s given double-tracked vocals and hammered dulcimer to evoke a nigh-on intangible, if captivating, psychedelic feel of being haunted and delighted at the same time, the ivories and three basses floating in and out of focus and electric guitar soaring to celestial heights until Spanish tide sweeps the specters away. However, “Evening’s End” – the barely-there number which was laid down during lockdown and, together with a sublime piano ballad “Without A Guide,” reflects Murphy’s quitting his museum curator’s tenure – has a slightly claustrophobic, albeit comfortable, singer-songwriter flow to its surface noise, fading out in the middle only to return to the fore in a significantly amplified form, dissipate into a finely crafted cacophony and appear again, transfixed and elevated.
So once “The Never Ending Day” has offered an elegiac, gospel uplift, the warm calm should come from the platter and serve up a spiritual sway – a lead into the album’s two principal epics, each spanning the record’s entire vinyl side and featuring Brian Gulland’s woodwind armory. From its first powerful chord onwards, “The Wrong Music” is rolling orchestral momentum across various styles and genres – including symphonic movements, funky beats and electronic buzz – that, at some point, were considered unsuitable for mass consumption and elicited protest from pseudo-purists, but are glorified here, stitched into a single, ever-shifting, dynamic-amassing, lyrically alluring tapestry with immense depth of perspective. Out of this creative ravine emerges “The Boss, The Siren, And The Sea”: an adventurous and life-affirming panorama, marrying past and present and pouring the “carpe diem” impetus in the song’s soft motifs, medieval patterns and avant-garde sound collages.
This is how “All Lombard Street To A China Orange” – the album’s title meaning a near certainty – proves to be poetically relevant in a timeless manner: murky and enticing, here’s the record to devour one’s soul and leave the joy of a journey in its former vessel.