Wednesday November 14th 2018
A Midlothian guitarist/composer has recently written and released a contemporary instrumental record, which attempts to capture the mood and atmosphere of modern Edinburgh – putting an official soundtrack to the city, if you will.
Duncan Murray, from Dalkeith, started work on the idea earlier this year, having been inspired to write some music about his home city, it’s beauty and blend of new and old. With the theme decided and the basic demos in hand, Duncan worked with local producer/studio owner Andrew Howden to record his music and release the EP titled ‘Edinburgh Ghosts’.
The record has a haunting yet celebratory vibe to it and, as the title suggests, there is an underlying theme of echoes of the past within the arrangements. We caught up with Duncan to get some insight into this unusual concept and the origins of the music:
Q: How do you begin to even soundtrack a city?
I was looking for some inspiration for a new music project, having moved away from conventional songwriting and into instrumental/soundtrack composing. I wanted to essentially put a soundtrack ‘to’ something and try to write a series of arrangements that captured its character.
That ‘something’ quickly became Edinburgh, once I realised the wealth of inspiration that was all around. This kicked off a process of developing some initial demo ideas that brought to life different moods from different parts or experiences of Edinburgh. The pick of these demos went on to form the foundation of the studio work, which we then built upon.
Q: Was it an easy process once it got going?
Yes and no! Deciding the theme of the music and developing the basic demos proved relatively intuitive, but once I got into the studio to record and develop the pieces into fully layered arrangements, there were various production obstacles. Certain sounds or phrases, which I initially thought worked nicely together, didn’t always prove a good fit when mixed, or certain instruments didn’t bring to life an idea the way I hoped it would.
So a lot of experimentation and going back to the drawing board was needed to shape the music into the idea I first had in my head. But that’s the name of the game, to write, re-write and re-write again until the music ticks all the boxes and creates the atmosphere or drama you’re aiming for.
Q: Where was Edinburgh Ghosts recorded?
The whole record was recorded and produced at Howden Sound Recording Studio in Newtongrange, with my long-time recording pal Andrew Howden. We took an iterative approach to recording and producing, laying down 2-3 hours of ideas, taking it away for listening, coming back for another 2-3 hours to tweak and lay down the next layer etc.
For me, particularly when it comes to composing work, this process helps to really listen to the detail of each layer and how it fits – not rush the job due to impatience of trying to get it finished and released. Having an experienced recording engineer/producer work with you and bring ideas to the table (and challenge mine) is invaluable.
Q: Finally, can you tell us a little about the tracks themselves?
Edinburgh Ghosts is a 4 track EP with reasonably long arrangements, which suited the music better than breaking it into a greater number of shorter tracks. It’s contemporary, guitar-led music with a blend of rock, atmospheric, acoustic and ambient vibes going on.
I wanted each track to convey a different mood, for instance with my track ‘Dramatic Skies’ creating a sense of drama / suspense compared with ‘Descendants’ which has a chilled, nostalgic feel. But the title track itself has a haunting melody which builds towards a celebratory climax, and of all the tracks perhaps best captures the idea that started it all.
I hope there’s something for everyone on Edinburgh Ghosts and that listeners will enjoy the diversity of the music. I hope it captures people’s imagination!
Edinburgh Ghosts is out now and available to download and stream from iTunes/Apple, Spotify and all other major digital platforms. Check out Duncan’s artist page on Facebook by visiting @duncanmurrayguitaristTweet Share on Facebook