The Lonely Bell - Ghost Town Burning (Album Review)


As societal creatures, city living fulfils all of our modern-day needs. The interconnectivity of the masses undoubtedly occasions convenience. However, living on the peripheries of society, in small rural settlements, detached from the machines of big towns and cities, can supplement inconvenience with an advantaged perspective, though some more comprehensive views can be nightmarish. For example, suicide rates are significantly higher in rural areas than urban areas. While the reason for this sad statistic is compounded, not having the distraction and camaraderie of a city leaves one with plenty of space and time to fill the mind with dramatic thoughts. 

On a brighter note, our culture knows all too well the archetype of the reclusive artist, hiking deep into nature to look for truths to commit to canvas, paper, or, in the case of Scottish sound artist Ali Murray, digital music files. Outposted on the Isle of Lewis, Murray releases music under his birth name and the moniker The Lonely Bell. The latter project's "Ghost Town Burning" is a surreal album of wildly deep and subtly nuanced dark ambient music. Lush tones are sustained to oblivion as various colourful additions and sonic anomalies play quietly in the background. 

An auditory sedative, this music sneaks up on you like an odourless gas, unsuspectingly whacking you into a stupor. Composed of two 20-minute-plus tracks, "Ghost Town Burning" and "Then The Snow...", the uncomplicated listen demands little from the listener yet rewards them with unequivocally gentle music. 

Gentle, but not harmless. There's an ominous core to these searching pieces. They mimic heaven and hell with ethereal environments permeated by cloudy darkness. It's easy to see how life in the Outer Hebrides has given Murray an eye for scope. His daily landscape is ostensibly uninterrupted by significant buildings and busy people; instead, one can imagine him trailing the edge of a steep cliff, the wild Atlantic ocean spraying inspiration into his pores. 

Murray imbues his recordings with a spiritual earthiness that feels like old souls embalmed in the bog, howling out music into an empty landscape.