- Experimental composition meets video game melodies on this unique record.
- While trying to put Harry Murdoch's music in context, I kept coming back to Steph Kretowicz's description in 2019: "advanced experimental club music." That kind of says it all. With a combo of clever, knotty arrangements and a sound palette that sounds like EDM stripped to its bare wires, Murdoch's music is tricky and complex without ever feeling showy. In fact, his latest record, for the wonderfully offbeat Gin&Platonic label, is downright pretty. Riffing off Murdoch's love of video games, Flower Knight imagines itself as the soundtrack for an imaginary title, capturing the glee and naïveté of the '90s' most enduring video game melodies, along with the compositional prowess of experimental musicians—a winning combo if there ever was one.
On Flower Knight, Murdoch works with the limited tools of the earliest video game soundtracks to exploit their simple pleasures in a different way. He uses a stripped-back palette of sounds that feel like artificial nylon string twangs—sometimes they pluck out familiar melodies, like on "Bench Theme," which could soundtrack the protagonist resting somewhere safe after a battle, or "The Grounds," which might be from a dungeon crawling scene. But most of the time the music is elegant, almost baroque, like "Forgotten Drawbridge," which captures the pseudo-classical approach of Japanese RPGs. Or the Emile Frankel collaboration "Cornifer's Song," whose skewed, almost random poly-melodies sound like the work of an AI raised on the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.
Using mostly the same sounds, Murdoch creates a remarkable variety of moods and textures on Flower Knight. It's legitimately experimental yet still approachable, using its conceit as a palatable disguise for some pretty out-there music. But the best moments might be the sweetest, and they come at the end: the five-minute "Escape (For Nepeta)" presents flurry after flurry of arpeggios, like a modern classical composition in 8-bit. It's followed by "New Game +," which offers an optimistic, triumphant finish—that feeling in some video games of winning and gaining access to a new, harder version. Like the composers he was probably inspired by, Murdoch wrings complex emotions via catchy melodies with the sparest of sound palettes. This might not be face-melting club music, but it's nearly as impressive.
01. Desert Of Blossom
02. Forgotten Drawbridge
03. Cornifer's Song feat. Emile Frankel
04. The Grounds
05. Vision Of Carmelia Groves
06. Bench Theme
07. Queen's Forge
08. Escape (For Nepeta)
09. New Game +