The piano, as this reviewer knows from being a somewhat rusty player, is remarkably versatile: a percussive instrument that is capable of such aching sensitivity, its dynamic and textural range creating an orchestra at one’s fingertips. Taylor Deupree mostly employs sparse, morose piano loops on Mur, buttressing them with a variety of digital effects, pads and sonorous bass notes.
Opening track Mir has a pondering quality, featuring lo-fi chords that sustain for what feels like an age and subtle elements of distortion sharpening the blunt notes. Occasionally the sequence will result in something resembling resolution, even triumph, before subsequent chords muddy the waters again. By the end of the track distant high-pitched tones shimmer in the light, as the central piano slowly fades out.
Mor adopts a fragile aesthetic with cascading motifs, and for a long time the only thing filling out the low-end is that muffled sound of keys being pressed down. Meanwhile Mer is notable for its use of pads not unlike those in Brian Eno’s An Ending (Ascent), a warm, choral sound that produces the most beautiful section of the album.
After (murmur)’s relatively brief cavalcade of compressed notes, Mar closes the record with a tumultuous climax. Its tone is decidedly ominous from the start, and this impression is vindicated by blasts of downsampled noise, far more drastic than any of Mur’s other tracks. Notes blare out like a lighthouse foghorn, disintegrating into cavernous reverb amongst the watery synth loops. This finale is a far cry from meditative or ambient, but it’s certainly a memorable highlight and adds another dimension to the album’s thoughtful sound design.
Suite-like and defiantly slow-paced, the songs of Mur ultimately reveal a kaleidoscope of emotion – wonder, melancholy, pathos, wistful longing – all through the expressive power of a simple piano.