Written, performed, recorded and produced by Alistair Murphy.
Mark Fletcher : Bass
I came round early, but you were already on your way
You sounded distracted when I talked to you today
To each his story and to each the way its told
There was nothing here before us, just the rushes and the trees
I remember how it sounded, how it felt, and how it was
And when the wind is blowing I hear their voices, their eager voices
So that’s how it is, and how it was had how its going to be
A single moment, a single chance, when the water’s flowing
This is a progressive ambient work mainly performed by multi-instrumentalist Alistair Murphy with just a little help from friends Laurie A'Court, Ian Burrage, Mark Fletcher, Jeremy Salmon and Diane Hare. Lots of synth immediately brings to mind the pioneering Tangerine Dream who have influenced so many and certain elements of the Floyd's Rick Wright.
Built around the five tracks of Wake, Water, Midway, Ocean and Reunion Murphy creates a rich, expressive and atmospheric soundscape that is ever changing.
Wake is a relatively short ambient opener with ethereal vocals from Diane Hare. This sets the scene for the extended works that are to come with Water introducing the improvisation that runs through this album. The lengthy Midway is a gentle flowing piece featuring extended vocals from Murphy and some great saxophone from Laurie A'Court. Ocean is another extended atmospheric and conceptual piece and is probably the track of the album with Laurie A'Court again providing superb support on the saxophone. Reunion closes the album in similar style to the opener with Hare providing some dreamy vocals.
An impressive atmospheric and ambient workout.
Terry Craven 'Wondrous Stories'
An intriguing cinematic fusion of Ambient textures, subtle improvisations and experimental Rock stylings, Alistair Murphy's ambitious 'islands' suite is something of a modern re-evaluation of the early work of synth pioneers such as Tangerine Dream and the seamless conceptual works of mid-70's Pink Floyd.
The five part piece is held together by the glue of the central song sequence, 'Midway'. Depicting fleeting happiness, missed chances and the effects of isolation, 'Midway's' introspective meditation on the human spirit making sense of a changing world, provides the cogent emotional fuel for the rest of 'islands'.
Written, produced and mostly played by multi-instrumentalist Alistair, 'islands' also features powerful contributions from several guest musicians: notably, the ethereal and haunting vocal accompaniment of Diana Hare and the blisteringly evocative sax of Laurie A'Court.
An album as individual as the isolated Norfolk landscape that inspired it, 'islands' introduces a distinctive new voice to the contemporary Progressive scene.
Tim Bowness 2002
Lying distinctly in the ambient sphere, this album is quite a surprise as the normal themes are missing. How can this be, well the five tracks all sway in different directions. The opening track appears to offer the standard fare, with the quiet sparse beginning, but then the harmonising vocals destroy any thoughts of pure ambience. It all about Wake and for those geographical enthusiasts, the longitude and latitude references are included for completeness.
The following track Water is a beautiful evocative piece that just oozes the sometimes-turbulent nature of the weather surrounding this area. It varies from the dark and mysterious to the light and buoyant passing via many differing musical patterns on the way including what appears to be a cross between a harpsichord and a piano. Midway consists of a haunting looped phrase onto which other sympathetic rhythms are added to slowly fill the piece out into a majestic soundtrack.
Believing this to be another ambient outing, I was shocked when the voice sang out loud and clear. Diana Hare is the guest vocalist who provides the haunting accompaniment to the music. The saxophone played by Laurie A'Court is use to great effect on Ocean, with its soaring scales riding the waves with such ease.
I like this album and hope that through these pages, it will receive a wider audience.
Modern Dance #39
There's a wonderful haunting synth line that begins 'Wake' and recurs throughout the five sections of 'islands'. This sets the scene for this evocative synthesized interpretation of Alistair Murphy's 'islands', each with given points of longitude and latitude on the interesting sleeve but also represents metaphorically in the lyrics of 'Midway'
OK, Murphy's singing on 'Midway' could be better but there is an intimate, almost naive quality about the 13 minute long section that lingers long in the memory. There is some great interplay between the saxes (Laurie A'Court) with the bass being used to play lead, some vibes and organ by Murphy, percussion by Ian Burrage and vocals (no words) by Diana Hare. The nearest reference point here would be, I suppose, Pink Floyd.
The other tracks are all instrumentals with A'Court's sax prominent on the longest piece, the 17 minute long 'Ocean'. Jeremy Salmon takes over percussion here and I was reminded very much of Jan Garbarek's musical sketches with soloing over the other musicians (mostly Murphy himself) - piano, plucked instruments, vibes, bass, cymbal work etc.
Islands reaches a peaceful conclusion with a much shorter piece entitled 'Reunion'. In fact a feeling of tranquillity pervades this haunting album - 'Each memory's a moment, each moment is an island, And on an island's where I stand.'
Phil Jackson - Acid Dragon #34
Multi-instrumentalist Alistair Murphy is a member of Norfolk band Halflife, whose music is generally song based and is quite different to the music on ISLANDS, his first solo album. Originally intended as a companion piece to a track he had recorded earlier, it grew and developed into a superb piece of work in its own right. Most of the instrumentation is by Alistair himself with contributions from friends on sax, vocals, percussion and bass.
ISLANDS comprises five totally absorbing, largely instrumental pieces which flow as one long continuous suite. Wake opens the album beautifully, beginning with cyclic and majestic keyboards it develops slowly, adding evocative female vocals a-la Pink Floyd's Great Gig in the Sky, before merging seamlessly into Water. This develops into a more abstract piece with lost of swirling synths and effects, again recalling Floyd with occasional hints of Emtidi's SAAT and Klaus Schulze. Mid-way the first of two longer pieces, builds on a theme heard at the start, adding more keyboards and guitar, eventually becoming a wonderfully hypnotic milieu for a haunting tale of isolation narrated by Alistair, complemented by alluring backing vocals from Diana Hare. In some ways, it reminded me of Arthur Brown's work with Schulze, but it's less radical. We also get the first appearance of Laurie A'Court's emotive sax playing, moving the music towards a jazzier feel (particularly with electric piano and bass in the background) which continues into Ocean, the longest track on the album. Here the sax becomes the lead instrument and takes the music further towards the avant-garde end of the musical spectrum, complex and powerful, yet sometimes peaceful and relaxing too. Finishing as we came in, Reunion features enchanting and ethereal vocals from Diana, drawing to a close a unique and enthralling album.
ISLANDS is a rare treat, a compelling and atmospheric, well-crafted composition that lingers in the mind, long after the disc has stopped spinning. Highly recommended.
Dave Griffith Audion #46
'islands' is the work of English musician and composer Alistair Murphy, aided by a small cast of associates. The music can be loosely categorised as progressive ambient, similar to Jade Warrior or even Pink Floyd at their most ambient. At the conceptual centre of the album are two long tracks, 'Midway' and 'Ocean' the former being the only song to feature Murphy's vocals. Here he sings convincingly about the effects of isolation and missed opportunities, aided by Laurie A'Court's improvised sax.
There isn't much of a compositional foundation here, rather simply a series of lyrical phrases that ride along the waves of ethereal guitar, keys, sax and percussion. 'Ocean' is another sprawling piece with Murphy's keyboards at the center joined again by A'Court and some cymbal washes from Jeremy Salmon. The effect is not dissimilar to the instrumental opening to Santana's 'Abraxas album, though here it stretches to over 15 minutes, probably seven or eight minutes too long for me.
Bookending the album are two short, ghostly pieces, both featuring Floydian female vocalizations, and the album is rounded out by the impressionistic 'Water' that swings from spacey synths to more pointed keys and percussion. The songwriting on the album is very spare with most of the focus on building textures and atmospheres. Here 'islands' succeeds, demonstrating Murphy's skill at assembling evocative and compelling soundscapes.
This is a commendable effort and certainly worth a listen by ambient and even space music fans.
Paul Hightower - Expose # 25 USA
Wer hat sich beizeiten nicht selbst schon einmal auf eine, nicht zwingend einsame, aber doch recht weit entfernte, entlegene Insel gewünscht? Dorthin, wo es immer warm und sonnig ist, fernab aller alltäglichen Probleme und Anforderungen. An einen Ort, an welchem die einen beständig wieder und wieder bedrängenden Notdürftigkeiten des Daseins nurmehr eine schwache, verblaßte Erinnerung sind. Dorthin, wo ausschließlich angenehme und begrüßenswerte Erfahrungen gegenwärtig sind.
Vielleicht wurde Alistair Murphy von ähnlichen Empfindungen geleitet, als er sich dazu entschloß, zu fünf pardiesisch anmutenden Pazifikinseln jeweils ein Stück Musik zu verfassen. Jedenfalls wurde "Islands" wie erwartet zu einer recht relaxten Angelegenheit; und dies ohne in allzu seichten Ambient-Gewässern vor sich hin zu plätschern, sondern sogar mit der einen oder anderen klanglichen Gegenströmung aufwartend.
"Wake" und "Réunion" sind schöne, jeweils fünfminütige In- bzw. Outros, mit deren bestimmenden und durchaus nicht unoriginellen Synthies eine Frauenstimme verwoben wird.
"Water" und "Midway" zeigen sich ebenfalls als sanfte und zugleich leicht surreal wirkende Klanggebilde, wobei letzteres als einziges Stück des Albums mit Text versehen und selbiger von Alistair in passablem Gesang vorgetragen wurde, und das im Verlaufe seiner 13 Minuten an Strukturiertheit und Dynamik zulegt.
Das über 17minütige "Ocean" schließlich läßt gar einen regelrecht jazzigen Touch aufkommen - und dies nicht nur da das Stück im Saxophon seinen Hauptmelodieerzeuger findet. Dieses wird begleitet u.a. von Orgel, Piano, vibraphon- und harfenartigen Tönen und es ist beeindruckend, wie es so sacht und frei dahinfließt und dabei zugleich seine Formen beständig wandelt.
In Alistair Murphy präsentiert sich uns ein weiterer eigenständiger, nicht gerade gewöhnlicher und dabei zudem hörenswerter Klangarchitekt. Einen Urlaub zu buchen, um auf dessen sonischen pazifischen Inselgruppen, in den dortigen vielfarbigen tonalen Korallenriffen, einige Tauchgänge zu unternehmen, scheint mir alles andere als Zeitverschwendung - "...each memory's a moment, each moment is an island, and on an island's where I stand."
Heiko - 03/03