Graham Reid | | 2 min read
This beautifully presented double vinyl in a gatefold sleeve comes from Auckland's excellent Sarang Bang Records and -- as with their earlier The Way Out is The Way In and Every Day is a Beautiful Day -- presents innovative music from the vaults of the late composer/keyboard player Murray McNabb.
A jazz player of local renown by the cognoscenti, McNabb was also musically curious and recorded material which could only be called “cosmic” when he really stretched out on synths and electronic keyboards, and embraced “the beyond”.
His was a genius which couldn't – and wouldn't -- be contained.
And it is previously unreleased or largely unavailable material recorded between 2000 and 2008.
McNabb plays piano, synths, electronics, drums, bamboo flute, and melodica. He, Koula Coulouris and Suzanne Lynch proved a few vocals, and Andrew Atwill plays electric bass on one piece.
The five-minute opener Our Mother is Crying sets the spiritual tone and meditative mood of this collection. With electronically processed and yearning vocals, McNabb lays down a gently relentless beat and a soundscape of synths which leads into the mesmerising, cosmic-cum-world music ambience of November and Epsilon, each with an equally paced-out beat, the evocative bamboo flute on the former and chugging synth on the latter.
This is head'n'heart music of the kind McNabb was often drawn to and for reference points you'd be looking closer to some of the more gentle Bill Laswell releases of the Nineties, Popul Vuh's soundtracks and perhaps even Mike Oldfield.
The running order is astutely planned because for the second side the world music elements and tempo are increased for the Afro-loose/Senegalese-Ceddo and the Manu Dibango-like groove of Ebony, then everything retreats into a more gentle mood for the appropriately titled Meditation No 2 (a more delicate Fripp/Eno ocean) which locates itself somewhere near Orion's Belt.
All of this is spacious yet intimate.
And the final pieces on this journey fold back to the beginning as a sound cycle of musical thought by a man who really was a rare thinker.
This collection rolls out through restful electronic space – McNabb was, unsurprisingly, a man at a rare and admirable peace with himself in his closing months – and somewhere between grounded tabla-like realism and an astral plane of synths, he locates himself in pieces like the exceptionally lovely Extensions.
When an artist passes, the critical default point will always be driven by sentiment and revisionist critical appraisal (as happened with George Harrison's very uneven catalogue).
But the late Murray McNabb created a broad body of work – much of which would go unheard if it weren't for Sarang Bang – deserving of serious attention.
And damn if the driving Space Dog with bassist Atwill isn't up for a deep dance-floor remix.
Now, this collection is -- as it says on the box -- McNabb in electronic mode.
So those few who rightly embrace his more mainstream jazz work (and the 12 minutes of piano pieces on the final side won't appease) may wish to leave early.
But this is another important, respectful and reverently packaged collection of the late, very great and unique Nabb's more outré tendencies.
With every Sarang Bang release, Murray McNabb is more and more missed.