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All My Sins Remembered II - The Sonic Worlds of John Murphy

All My Sins Remembered II - The Sonic Worlds of John Murphy cover"I just preferred harsher sounds, I suppose" John Murphy offhandedly commented in a Heathen Harvest video feature when discussing his formative musical influences. Following the first volume of All My Sins Remembered, a triple CD which attempted to gather together Murphy's extensive and varied involvement in music which spanned decades, oceans and genres ranging from the early Australian punk of News, industrial luminaries such as Whitehouse and SPK and the psychedelic operatic pop of the Associates, to numerous neo-folk outfits and his own projects including Orchestra of Skin and Bone and KnifeLadder. This second volume focusses on some of his own musical pursuits ranging from his early recordings as Krank, through the twin ritualesque sounds of Ophiolatreia and My Father of Serpents to his later collaborative work as The Grimsel Path and back again to Krank, a project that worked through numerous iterations from its initial birth as Krang Music. This double CD set covers more of his own personal work where Murphy, a multi-instrumentalist, percussionist and drummer, would deepen his technique as he studied Japanese, Lebanese, Gamelan, Joujouka and other traditions which he would distil into his numerous collaborative work and more specifically into his own projects some of which are featured here.

His early Krank project is revived on the compilation opener 'NAOS Number 1' where he is joined by Till Brüggemann of Gerechtigkeits Liga on a track which began in London in 2007 and was completed several years later when John was now exiled in Berlin following visa issues. It is an expansive soundscape offering a more contemporary take on eighties industrial, improvised around doomy droning synths and dissonant atmosphere filled with squeak and squelch, and shredded noise manipulations. Largely devoid of rhythm, the percussive element comes in the form of ringing bowls and metallic bells being struck. The clink and chime plays a greater role in the latter half, amidst occasional bursts of noise, amplified rustling textures and an electronic hum, roaring like an animalistic growl. Murphy was adept at sound manipulation and conductor of carefully controlled sonic chaos and this collaborative piece which Till Brüggemann assembled is ample evidence of this.

The Grimsel Path was one of John Murphy's last projects, one he shared with fellow Berlin resident Jon Evans. The duo swiped their name from a track from Last Dominion Lost, an old Australian group which featured the duo along with fellow SPK alumni Dominik Guerin. Recorded live at the Foetus Frolics Festival, Berlin in July 2012 it offers a more technological and electronic sound in a set which stretches from the manipulations of 'Deviation' to the explosive 'End of Transmission'. Each track, however, is infused with varied harsh noise elements. Whirring processed noise combines with the clatter of metallic clanking and the crash of smashed glass on 'Deviation'. Disembodied voice fragments waft over the industrial hiss and amplified rumbles of 'Scorched Earth', while the undulating drones of the more contemplative and drone based 'Sideshow Of The Soul' unleash bleak psychedelic washes of noise. Things get noisier when The Grimsel Path turn their hand to industrial electronics. 'Hair Soap Candles' sucks-up taped voices into shifting layers of electronic drones, noise textures and ringing processed sounds; while 'Run Please Master' wrestles with chugging distorted rumbles and rhythmic metal clanging cut with gloomy synth chords and wayward analogue bleeps. There's a sense of restraint about The Grimsel Path's performance; for much of it they seem to be reining things in but on the closing track, 'End of Transmission', ricocheting elements lead into pulsing analogue electronics against a backdrop of noise shudders as it heads onwards into harsher realms veering between noise bursts and processed rhythmic clatter. The Grimsel Path performed a number of live shows but it's a pity they never hit the studio as these tracks, which originally appeared on the Verdant Hum cassette, combine a digital and analogue approach where John Murphy and Jon Evans forged a more contemporary take on industrial music. A number of live performances can be found on youtube.

In the mid eighties suffering from exhaustion John Murphy returned to Australia. Regrouping with Ollie Olsen on the short lived experimental post-industrial outfit Orchestra of Skin and Bone, he would also aid Olsen as musical director on the film Dogs In Space which starred Michael Hutchence and explored the late seventies Melbourne post-punk scene. Murphy appeared briefly in the film and contributed to the soundtrack. A while later, John Murphy would begin work as My Father Of Serpents which would morph into Ophiolatreia, a name which was Latin for Serpent Worship. Both groups performed music that could be considered dark ambient and ritual; their musical aesthetic an outward expression of his own personal spiritual path. Archive recordings of Ophiolatreia detail their ritualised evocations in shimmering electronics and bowed instrumentation. 'Mirror of Dionysos', which appeared on Dark Vinyl's Must Be Musique compilation, is a slowly realised piece that gets progressively darker sinking into Shehnai wails and churning synths adorned with the clink of finger bells.'Mirror to Dionysos' a shorter unreleased archive recording leans heavily on the horn wails but is notable for the rare vocal appearance from John Murphy with intonations summoning Dionysos and "dead names" amidst intermittent drum beat pummels. A later untitled track based around an arcing elongated vocal chant, although recorded some years later, recalls Murphy's contribution to Current 93's 'Maldoror Is Dead'.

The first track from My Father Of Serpents 'Live at RMITV studio 1988' is exactly what it says a live to air solo performance from John Murphy as My Father Of Serpents. Using prepared tapes of shrieking and churning electronics and location recordings of birdsong Murphy adds tiny cymbals chime, whispered and gutteral vocal utterances and billows of shehnai reedy wails. Intense and intimate it is shadowy, dark and given the instrumentation it is a prime example of Murphy's ritualesque sound, which originally featured on Terminal Discharge a Melbourne Public Television show in 1988 which can be viewed here. An untitled 9 minute piece is bookended by looped melodic sounds at the start and an assemblage of cut-up film samples towards the end with the main part featuring ritualised evocations sort of similar to Current 93's Dogs Blood Rising sound with its emphasis on Monastic chanting over groaning electronics and orchestral samples. A further shorter untitled track is more in the vein of dark ambient unfurling to slow groaning electronics and percussive rattles pierced by the odd scream. The whole thing sounds like a chasmic gap is being opened in the earth's surface. John Murphy was never satisfied with the names of these groups and eventually settled on the name Shining Vril which he felt more adequately reflected the esoteric pursuits and the life long spiritual path he was on.

After arriving in the UK in the early eighties, John Murphy lead a schizophrenic existence flitting between pop acts and the nascent industrial scene. His skittering drum style propelled the acclaimed and mesmerising Sulk album from the Associates and with his trusty EMS modular synth he performed in Whitehouse live actions and on their infamous Psychopathia Sexualis album. The final track on the second CD is devoted to what comprised Krank's Chaos tape recorded in 1983 with Roger Smith and, according to the original tape release, featured David Tibet as special guest. It dates from a period when Murphy was recording with Shriekback and Gene Loves Jezebel. More notably the recording took place in the period where Krank, according to Club Moral, performed an "agonising soundscape" at the Equinox Event, a legendary industrial all-dayer which Murphy helped organise with his then partner (and cousin of Boy George) Mary Dowd and the Produktion crew which featured performances from Ramleh, Val Denham's The Death and Beauty Foundation and David Tibet's pre-Current 93 group Dog's Blood Order. Interestingly, the Equinox formation of Dog's Blood Order included Tibet and Murphy, with live mixing by Roger Smith which exactly matches the artists on this recording of Krank.

The recording is varied and rooted in early eighties industrial music but it also pushes the envelope in terms of experimentation, especially in its use of looped based recordings. The first track is improvised experimental noise featuring scrape and skreechiness with the hollow pluck of strings. Another pits Tibetan Thighbone trumpet wails against churning synths and twisted scrapes, while another utilises field recordings of bird song, looping tones and punishing cries with electronic churn and an array of percussion and rattles. Another digs deep into the undergrowth drenching a deep wavering synth drone in clanks and sound drips, and while it never plummets to the depths of Lustmord's cavernous sound it certainly lays down the groundwork. One track is recorded live and given the timeframe might even be taken from Krank's appearance at the Equinox Event. I can't confirm though but it unleashes a forceful noise wash of squalling electronics and explosive frequencies, topped with shrieking vocals. A full on noise assault coming close to the power electronics of Whitehouse and Ramleh. Other tracks offer a more intriguing angle, featuring loops and processing, ranging from the increasingly intensity of crushed and smashed glass, a short looped experiment of skreeches, wails and horn and another of rudimentary loops and processing, more akin to a William S. Burroughs taped experiment of random stop/start playback of a tape machine. Everything including the final section runs as one long track but utilising instrumentation ranging from synth, horns, percussion to tapes, piano and electric motors it seems even then John Murphy was soundtracking his esoteric thought with ideas and instrumentation which went well beyond the electronic noise of some of the extreme exponents of industrial music with an approach that took in his love of Krautrock.

The final section is a 30 minute recording which soundtracked Lines Of Least Resistance, a film by Andrew Hickinbotham which appeared on SPK's Twin Vision video imprint. From street sounds location recordings, it snags along subjecting an electronic drone to processed buzzes and quivers. Siren like frequencies follow passages of hollow pounds before it sinks into near silence punctuated by distant pummels and slow gestating synth hum edged onwards by horn wails, which some sources attribute to David Tibet, and distant desolate percussive elements. It gets progressively harsher with the clatter of metal percussion, as it ricochets and clanks, together with the distorted buzz of electronics. In its closing moments chiming metal percussion, harsh electronics and wailing voices come together reflecting the sound elements John Murphy would continue to work with for years to come. It brought him neither fame nor fortune; he would continually state that through his working (and living) methods he sacrificed a lot but he would travel the world furthering his spiritual need, witnessing sacred sounds and rituals whilst embarking on untold musical adventures.

He was at heart a humble, intrepid explorer of outlying sonic sounds. His work as drummer and percussionist with more traditional outfits, showcased his musical prowess and dexterity but his heart lay in more unconventional harsher sounds. All My Sins Remembered II unearths many of those moments from John Murphy's archive in one handy package, restored by Andrew Londsdale and mastered by Hunter Barr. The sonic chaos within in many ways reflects his wayward life. It's not always an easy listen but that was never expected. All My Sins Remembered II is presented beautifully in a foldout package with some excellent insight from Andrew Londsdale in the accompanying liner essay. All My Sins Remembered II - The Sonic Worlds of John Murphy is available digitally and as a double CD set from The Epicurean.

Shining Vril and KnifeLadder
As a footnote, listeners of this should also seek out his work as Shining Vril, a solo ritualistic experimental soundscape project which would have fitted nicely here. They released a split album with KnifeLadder, with tracks spread over numerous compilations. It's definitely something interested parties should want to compile, and, something John told the African Paper he wanted to do. And, of course, there is KnifeLadder, a powerhouse of electronics, bass and rhythms which, along with Shining Vril, were his main musical concerns before his forced exile to Berlin. Together with Andrew Trail and Hunter Barr, KnifeLadder released the albums Organic Traces, The Spectacle and Music/Concrete with a sound that is spiritual, physical and visceral. KnifeLadder albums are available at KnifeLadder on bandcamp.

Our review of the first volume, All My Sins Remembered - The Sonic Worlds of John Murphy can be found here.

African Paper
A Death Rune for John Murphy Podcast featuring a great interview by Aki Cederberg for Radio Wyrd