Listencorp review image of city shadows by anna murray

City Shadows

Anna Murray

Field Recording

Liam Murphy

January 24, 2021

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

Tokyo shines through recorded sound and subtle instrumentation

Recordings of candid streets and areas can so often feel sparse in detail and context. When we are presented with the sounds that emerge from a location, it is difficult to fully appreciate the situation we are hearing without knowing the specifics in terms of time and date. For instance, the opening to Anna Murray’s City Shadows feels curiously wonted. As the artist walks through Akihabara Electric Town in Tokyo, the electronic trills of arcade machines roll toward us. Pristine pop music leaks out of tinny speakers. Children and adults enjoy themselves, a rough gauze of conversation and movement fills the backdrop. It all sounds how we would imagine a shopping hub in Tokyo to sound, if not a little light on the ground in terms of shoppers. But as Anna begins to drag a brush across the scene, hues of melancholy begin to show. Austere piano chords settle against the sounds, stumbling in and out of dissonance. Anna moves with a light step both when capturing the surroundings and in augmenting them later. The piano notes rest gently on top of the noise, almost as if the Tokyo scene is fading into images of demoralising headlines detailing global lockdowns and tragedy. The artist treads deftly through an interesting space, and gifts an emotional context to what we can hear. 

As we proceed with Anna Murray, similar methodology is employed as we are shown through the Metropolitan Expressway. The rough sound of vehicles pushing their way along roads fill the grey aether. A long drawling note with a metallic resonance snakes in-between carriages and tendrils of cement carrying cars and trucks. Reversed sounds muffled by the stifling city ambience pulse towards us from the sustained note. The track blooms all of a sudden, as Anna guides us toward a vista from which we can see a wider view of Tokyo and its sprawling roads and walkways. The sounds we hear communicate to us that people are in motion through the city, but the artist’s post-walk pontifications in the form of samples and organic instrumentation illustrate to us the eternal soul of the cityscape in a way that simple background noise can’t. We then hear Anna’s footsteps through the blot of green that is Hamarikyu Gardens. Warbling drones stretch up in the distance past the birdsong and the crunch of the gravel underfoot. This stalwart image of great buildings towering over the natural space floats into the mind of the listener, making the natural elements that artist captured seem small and hemmed in.

Anna Murray walks us through three very different spaces, our gaze tinged by instrumentation and recorded sound that acts as the haze of retrospect. Not once are we forced down a certain path or didactically commanded to think a certain thing. At all times, we are being presented the surroundings alongside a more translucent impression of the place and its aura. Anna steps lightly and deftly avoids manipulation or any act that may disrupt the natural order of things. Throughout, the natural impression of the place and its more intangible spirit vie for supremacy.