Wednesday, February 17, 2010
HEATHER LEIGH MURRAY "DEVIL IF YOU CAN HEAR ME" (Not Not Fun)
Heather Leigh Murray was at one time the third member of Charalambides. I also suspect during that time she was the lover of either Tom or Christina Carter, perhaps both. I have no proof of that, only a feeling-a project as rigidly self-contained as Charalambides would not permit another unless they were on incredibly intimate ground with the members. Heather graced two or three albums and a handful of live performances and went on to become one half of Christina Carter's Scorces project, an interim stop betwixt the continuing nakedness of Charalamabides and the emotional starkness of Christina's own recordings. From there she went on to the UK, where she now is one half of the excellent Volcanic Tongue store/mailorder in Scotland and the lover/collaborator of noise maniac David Keenan, proprietor of the excellent At War With False Noise label. To some degree i distrust Heather Leigh Murray. I feel that she has used her connections to further her own musical ends and those ends are extremely limited, talent-wise. Had she never hooked up with Tom and Christina i wonder if anyone would even know her name. As is, i do know, and i own a number of non-Charalambides recordings that she appears on, this being one of them, an album under her own name and presumably being her own statement. Not Not Fun is a totally boutique label more focused on a "who you know" mentality than actual quality so i view this release with a fair amount of skepticism. The title is an obvious play on the Robert Johnson legend; Heather Leigh distorts the idea of the blues for her own purposes on these three songs, each an extended exploration of pedal steel guitar and voice, an aimless journey more concerned with the route than the actual arrival. I feel as though Miss Murray chose the pedal steel not for its own unique instrumental qualities but for the fact that very, very few avant/noise musicians have chosen to work with it, and that said distinction would grant her an immediate sort of recognition within the scene. Pedal steel guitar is notoriously difficult to play and pretty much disposes of any who would dare make it their servant; unfortunately electricity and delay make it possible for anyone to seem like they know how to manipulate a stringed instrument. And such is the downfall of Miss Murray. These three songs all heavily reference the outsider mystique of Jandek and vaguely recall the passionate obscurity of early Sonny Sharrock but it's just amateurish wailing with little thought or consideration put in. This is the true argument against delay-it creates ideas where none had before existed. That isn't to say that Miss Murray is without personality as a musician-much of her work with Scorces and Tarpis Tula is idiosnychratic and dark and interesting-i just don't feel that she has the brass or the depth to hold up as an artist of her own merits. She just released an LP with Chris Corsano that apparently pushes everything waaaay into the red and goes for blood all out-i'm incredibly curious to hear what's happening there and to see if working with Corsano adds the expected level of urgency to her playing. At the very least it has to have a little more passion than this troglodytic dud- Robert Johnson may have sold his soul but at least the devil gave him fire. Heather Leigh Murray is just playing with ash.