Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.10 – Under – Murmur

Enigmatic ambient lo-fi drone composer Under bombed the Web with a typically bewildering array of new material, putting out two volumes of archive material, three EPs (plus a fourth in the wonderful Loosen EP that appeared and disappeared practically overnight [Jan.1.2015 EDIT: Loosen has just re-emerged via Fire Talk, who seem to be releasing all Under’s stuff nowadays.]) and this mini-album through New York’s Fire Talk Records. Given the way her work tends to blur dreamily from one release to another and her habit of suddenly and inexplicably disappearing or rearranging stuff from her back catalogue, it could be said that everything she does is really part of one, amorphous, shifting, hallucinatory experience.

However, to pick one collection for this top twenty rundown, Murmur is the most ambitious, the subtle textural differences imbuing the otherwise ambiguously structured vocal and guitar harmonies with a sense of narrative, albeit one that pairs a track called Shirley Temple with the album’s harshest guitars and one called A W Mountain Cake with what sounds like ocean waves. From behind her veil of secrecy, Under seems to at least be gaining confidence with her vocals, allowing them to play greater part, in her music, if not always exactly a prominent one. Throughout the album they drift back and forth between the front and back of the mix, pushing up close on 17Japan and then immediately receding into the distance on the closing C, C & C (Good Night).

As I said before, there’s a tremendous amount of material that Under keeps putting out, and in many ways the best way to listen to it is to just get all of it at once and let yourself drown in it. Putting the microscope over one short EP can provide a different perspective, focussing your attention in on the details of just a few fragile minutes. Murmur is a sort of midway point between the two approaches, both short enough to let the details and varying textures show up, but just long enough to be an immersive experience and take you on a dream trip of its own. You should really get everything, but if you get only one thing, get this.

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