GARY MURRAY, the man behind the LN moniker, has been unfairly pigeonholed to the shadowy corners of slow-core for most of his prolific career. The dream-soaked guitar washes that underscore the majority of LN’s catalogue has never been a veil he timidly hides behind. The “slow-core” label might help you file LN under the proper genre, but they have never been a noisy band. Rather, Murray’s work has been consistently quiet, delicate, brooding, and mystically powerful. Think of a meditative David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower/Wovenhand) that meets a complex Coastal or July Skies, and you get an idea of the dynamic. In essence, a haunted reverence draped in hushed, spacious power.
Downstream Angels is Murray’s seventh EP (the second to bear his name, this time uniquely as “Gary Murray & LN”), picking up where 2007’s Revenant Waltz EP left off. “She’s Electric” showcases multiple vocal layers mixed with tender acoustic guitars and subtle pedal steel, harkening back to the Americana undertones that graced Dirt Floor Hotel 1 & 2. A lulling, ambient drone undergirds “Niagra,” a softly textured jangle that hints at The Innocence Mission in part, only overloaded and deeply cut like Don Peris never is.
“Like Dogs at Play” and “Number Six” act as small, post-rock soundscapes intermitted throughout the eight tracks, giving Murray’s warm, somber baritone more space to breathe. The sonic swirling that emerges halfway into “The Lost Art of Mending Wings” recalls the elegant guitar layering that filled Novel, a chilling affair with smoky howls and painfully gorgeous shoegaze aches.
A dry acoustic guitar accompanies the plaintive “Minotaur,” sending it nowhere beyond Murray’s pleading, love-broken vocals and subtle reverb. But the most striking thing about Gary Murray is that, at his most raw and stripped down, you’re simply left with a great song. It’s unfortunate that Murray isn’t heralded as a superior songwriter, because to me, LN is always more about the song than the trippy package in which it often arrives.
So while Downstream Angels covers familiar territory, its parts remain delicately consistent, and even on par with the best of anything that LN has ever recorded. Few artists share the remarkable longevity that Murray has, and here’s to hoping that many more records will follow.
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