Venturing beyond the confines of personal cosmos, Norfolk’s conjurer of tuneful wonders looks forward to finding peace of mind.
There always was something eerie in Alistair Murphy’s music yet, as his 2021 opus "All Lombard Street To A China Orange" suggested, the veteran’s retirement from Cromer Museum became him, making his compositions more comfortable, albeit a little bit claustrophobic, There’s no surprise, then, in that platter’s successor following down the same course and streamlining it for further endeavors – out in the open – and letting the record’s title play mind games with the listener. Still, curating a cabinet of curiosities implies not only quietude but also concept and, perhaps, some anxiety, and this is where “Living Space” excels – setting aside a sci-fi-tinctured story, unfolding in the disc’s booklet and featuring Alistair’s early self, Murf, and focusing on various ways to inhabit Murphy’s alter-ego’s continuum in which time and other expanses collide with melodious sounds and magnificent aural aromas.
It may not feel so all-encompassing in the beginning, when the effects-laden, funereal-to-optimistic overture “Between Worlds” floats into the faux-symphonic frame to signal the illusory, if multilayered, nature of the album’s inter-pieces frontiers, as there are subtle segues instead of deafening pauses, but it will seem so long before the start of the platter’s other instrumental, the ethereally earthy “10.000 Billion Miles From Home” whose flight is breathtakingly traced by Alistair’s ivories and his friends’ pseudo-improvisatory vignettes. To get to that point, though, one has to step through Murphy’s retro-styled croon of “The Open Door” – accompanied by his grand piano and encouraged by Chris Lee’s flugelhorn and Steve Bingham’s viola – and encounter the unexpected rifferama of “Farside City Three” which, uncharacteristically for this artist’s oeuvre, rocks hard and with a lot of gusto, dipping his soft vocals into the brassy braziers full of liquid fire. However, while the urban loneliness behind “In A Crowded Street” – where Brian Gulland’s woodwind and Jez Salmon’s cymbals assist The Curator in shaping steamy atmosphere until Mark Fletcher’s bass and voice cut the haze with a sweet reverie – offers ageless dichotomy in splitting the authorship and parts between Murf and Murphy, “The Sea Lanes” locates innocently stellar dreams amidst raga and folk drones to send mesmeric lines toward the fantasies-driven future.
That’s where the trip of “Falling, Searching, Falling” launches in earnest, running from traditional strum to orchestral electricity which conceal no fear of failure, leading the intrepid souls to the petrichor-scented epic “The Sun After Rain” to fathom hope in solemn passages and heavy barrage of guitars, to arguably present a pinnacle of Alistair’s art – and to pave the road to “In The Glare (We Fall But We Fly)” in pop-looking boulders, so fitting for this record’s psychedelic finale and its already familiar themes. No wonder “Living Space” is a heartwarming cosmos welcoming all who dare trespass the boundaries of their own cell and explore adjacent worlds.