There’s a point that’s reached in the first song of her haunting, sumptuous and dreamy debut where newcomer Cornelia Murr makes listeners decidedly aware that they ought to take note. It’s a short whistled refrain, but in that moment, Murr’s nocturnal musings suddenly come to the fore as if shaken out of their slumber. She is, after all, a performer that tends to lean on atmospheric ambiance to sell her songs, and that in itself suggests a style that leans more on mood than melody. Hardly the sort of thing that gains instant attention.
Nevertheless, Murr’s hazy arrangements and low cast delivery often proves captivating, especially when given a perky, percussive lilt like that which underscores “Man on My Mind” or the rhythm-worthy “Who Am I to Tell You.” Even the more cosmic trappings she employs in “Cicada” serve to break the spell, giving the music added intrigue apart from the more restrained sonics that litter the arrangements throughout.
Apart from the obvious hint of a psychedelic suggestion, Murr says her intention was to create a series of aural soundscapes that might lend a visual element to the album. The accompanying press release refers to the “spiritual geography of the album, which invokes the cyclical journey of water from the highest point in the Adirondack Mountains to the valley below and out to sea.”
While Murr doesn’t quite maintain this premise—indeed, most of the offerings seem more intent on creating enticement courtesy of producer Jim James’ aural additives and Murr’s use of Mellotron, Omnichord, percussion, pocket piano and guitars—the sound is alluring all the same. “I’ve spent so long/In a silent space scream/Now I’ve forgotten how it feels/To know someone’s listening,” Murr sings on the song “Billions,” one of the more wistful songs in the set. And indeed, there is a certain amount of self-absorbed fascination inherent here as well. Later, in that same song, she decries the fact that, “I’m not getting through,” a warning perhaps to herself, that she may lean a little too obliquely for her own good.
That said, the album’s surreptitious charms ultimately provide a sensual if subdued quality that enhances the accessibility factor overall. Indeed, Murr’s read of Yoko Ono’s “I Have a Woman Inside My Soul” gives that song an immediate appeal that was elusive at best in Ono’s original. Happily too, when that whistle reappears on the track that follows, “You Got Me,” it’s clear by then that she has us as well.