Friday, November 27, 2009

Murmur EP - The Sight Below

Murmur EP

The Sight Below
Ghostly International.

SCQ Rating: 75%

This late in the year, with so many year-end considerations needling my brain as if their inclusions, exclusions and inevitable order mean something altogether crucial for the survival of mankind, I often wonder how Glider would’ve fared had it been released when I discovered it in February of 2009. It’s a brief contemplation that usually ends in my deep-down assurance that The Sight Below’s debut full-length would’ve mopped the floor with much of 2009’s competition, let alone 2008’s. And while I’ll have to wait until 2010 to meet The Sight Below’s second LP head-on, there’s something perfectly timed about Murmur EP.

It became habitual for me, this past winter, to stretch out on the couch an hour or so past midnight, wrap headphones around my ears and listen to Glider in its entirety. Yes, part of that routine likely had to do with The Sight Below’s wintry feel – all dreary guitar and barren soundscapes – but what really saved that album for nocturnal listening was how enveloping it was. None of that weightless magic has been lost on Murmur EP, where padded beats and distant ambience provide the same stirring pools of cinematic techno we’ve come to expect… only this time more adventurous. All that’s familiar about ‘Murmur’ is ultimately propelled by its revved-up BPM; a quiet distinction that permits equally subtle additions like echoed samples that trace back to Detroit Techno. Even the 4/4 beats - often considered the backbone to The Sight Below’s sound – have shifted from their measured particulars to a muffled dancefloor style, intertwined with uneven bass, grimy yet refined. As carefully cousined as ‘Murmur’ is to the beat-heavy Glider material, ‘Wishing Me Asleep’ is a humble walk outside his discography. Alternating between bass-heavy passages and still-life atmospherics, ‘Wishing Me Asleep’ exercises his customary sound while occasionally stretching its drama, handicapping its beats, and finding new possibilities.

Of the remixes, Eluvium catapults the title track from No Place For Us EP into gauzy clouds of peppered percussion while Simon Scott suffocates the beat altogether in a thunderous abyss. These takes are fun to play back-to-back with their respective originals, mostly because Eluvium and Scott both seem wary about disturbing The Sight Below’s signature sound. Even without considering The Sight Below’s choices for remixers (or, say, cover-art), his releases have always meshed fluidly into an overarching grayscale where his palette and moods have always layered over one another. And though Murmur EP doesn’t cause a rift in that bleak, comforting universe-unto-itself, these two new songs do flirt with styles outside pre-defined boundaries and tinker with Glider’s game-plan. Featuring a remixed second-glance of his past and new material to usher in future ideas, Murmur EP is about as satisfying as a stop-gap release can be and, you bet, ideal for winter-walking.

No comments: