End Of Navigation
Humbug : Humbug036 : 2004
The second full length CDR from Murmansk. Dense with more electronics than the debut. Recorded between late 2002 and mid 2003.
Review by Brad Rose in Foxy Digitalis
"I remember seeing a movie about gnomes when I was young. These gnomes were just like the gnomes in cartoons, but the movie was a live action feature. They were little people living in the forest amongst the decaying leaves and fuzzy moss floors. As a kid, it was one of my favorite movies. There was something great about how whimsical the movie was. By cinematic standards, it was absolute garbage I'm sure, but to a weird kid, what could be better than little forest folk saving the day? I'm sure the writers and producers of the movie were on a lot of drugs at the time.
And then there's Murmansk. This Irish group is part of the fantastic Dublin-based Deserted Village collective. Over these four long tracks, Murmansk deconstruct life in the forest. They reveal all the beautiful things from the ground up; all the things we take for granted on a daily basis. This is not an easy album to listen to, but once you let the textures this group of musicians creates consume you, there is no going back. Using a variety of bowed string instruments and bowed cymbals, these long, organic drones have an open-air sound to them. There is a lot of space between the instruments. At times, it sounds as if "End of Navigation" was recorded under the dense canopy of a deciduous forest. This is music straight from nature.
Over the course of an hour, Murmansk leads the listener on a quiet journey. These four pieces have an introspective slant to them; although the music is quiet and subtle, there is a great deal of personal exploration happening within their boundaries. "Tundra Crossing," which opens the album, uses interspersed moments of near-silence to give the listener their own time to reflect. Towards the end of the track, it gets a bit chaotic. Voices chatter and metallic drone from some kind of keyboard or synth begins to dominate the mix. This track has two distinct sides to it. First, it is the warmth of summer in a heavily wooded area. Dozens of animals move about while cicadas and locusts chirp and scream. As the piece progresses, though, we start to feel the temperature drop. Welcome to the first freeze of the season. The latter half of this track is cold and desolate; it feels just like the title suggests - crossing a frozen, barren region. These two opposite ideas are linked by quiet, intimate clatters throughout the middle half of the song. It's an excellent track from beginning to end, and the fact that Murmansk can make these two ideas work so well together is impressive.
Flutes, whistles, and scores of bowed guitars grace the expansive 12-minute piece, "Bowhead Whale Beached." This is Murmansk at their most abrasive, sound tracking the demise of a beached whale. There's a lot of drama at the beginning of this track, but as rescue workers show up on site to help the beached mammoth, things quiet down. The first four minutes of "Bowhead Whale Beached" are the best part of "End of Navigation." I can only wonder how powerful a Murmansk album with the intensity turned up this high all the way through would be.
"Nunatuk" and "Still in Search" make use of silence even better than "Tundra Crossing." While the former track is an industrial, clanging mess, the moments of metallic excess are softened by the quiet that follows them. It almost makes the track feel post-modern. Various flute notes are mixed in with acoustic guitar which counteracts the sterile nature of the metallic percussion. This is a powerful track. It's like the battle between huge, industrial corporations and the desire to preserve the environment. It's excellent. "Still in Search," the longest track on the album, is barely audible at times. In fact, this track is so minimal, there are times I had to check if it was still playing. Don't let this distract you, however, as the silence is welcome. The rare notes on the track are well-chosen, and overall, it's a great piece and perfect way to close the album.
Movies about gnomes aren't too popular these days. That's understandable, though, as tiny forest people would likely only appeal to those on acid or those experiencing acid flashbacks. However, there is something to be said for those completely immersed in the forest ecosystem. Murmansk are a band that is in-tune with this woodland world, and it comes through loud and clear on "End of Navigation." This album would be best served on headphones while laying in a pile of freshly-fallen leaves. Beautiful. 8/10
-- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)"
Review from Vital Weekly
"Another active force in the world of CDR is the Norwegian Humbug label. Their first new release is by Murmansk, a group from Dublin. The members first met a workshop by AMM percussionist Eddie Prevost in 2001. They also run a label Deserted Village. There are six members in Murmansk who play a wide variety of analogue and digital instruments. As you can imagine with such an inspiring background as with Eddie Prevost, this the world of total free improv, but the AMM influence of silent music starts only in the fourth piece 'Still In Search'. In the other three tracks the volume is more upfront, and we can detect mostly percussive sounds as well as some stringed sounds. Quite atmospheric stuff, especially in that aforementioned 'Still in Search' piece."