Irish songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Gavin Murray, aka Trick Mist, is something of a hidden gem in the Irish music scene. His work to date, built upon original samples, storytelling lyrics and influence from traditional Irish music, has earned the acclaim of the Irish music press and notable national and regional radio airplay but has not translated into the popularity or Spotify plays that it deserves.
The Hedge Maze and The Spade is the follow-up to Murray’s 2018 debut LP Both Ends, and finds the Corkman in a pensive mood. Inspired by the death of his grandmother at the age of 96, the album sees him explore and seek to understand this relationship over just forty minutes.
The album opens with its most straightforward track, ‘Flagbearer’. Built around a circling, reverberated guitar arpeggio and Murray’s warm baritone vocal, the tracks finds our narrator resigned yet accepting towards our subject matter from the first instant:
“Nature has run it’s course, natural pain and natural perspective”
That is not to say, however, that this is run-of-the-mill songwriting – rather that it merely hints at the juxtaposition of personal introspection and abstract composition that lies deeper within. ‘Flagbearer’ does not feature an obvious chorus, nor does the guitar measure change greatly from beginning to end.
But the more you listen, the more you hear. A single percussive click that perforates the track increases in volume and intensity at around the ninety second mark, with a stuttering, tremolo-like sample revealing itself at the halfway point. This gives way to ‘Over The Threshold’, a dizzying montage of back-masked vocal and live instrumental samples propped up against bright guitar noodling, which all but confirms the abstract turn the album is about to take.
The album features Murray’s most confident arrangements to date, as he gets to tackles themes of love, loss, wonder, spirituality and childhood. Sonically, we are treated to aesthetics from disparate, percussive and melodic (‘The Tree’, ‘Willingdon Island’), to spectral, glacial and ambient (‘Boring Bread’, ‘Romance Capital’, ‘Orion’s Belt’).
Lyrical offerings range from anecdotal (“He’s forever telling that story she said with eyes rolled”) to thought provoking (“I’m always trying to go somewhere but there’s beauty at the bus stop”), all arranged and presented in a way that brings the listener into the deconstruction and reassembly of the relationships which helped to shape the mind that borne them. Samples are at times discordant and overbearing, and while the lyrics are set to a defined meter, sentences often run on into the next line and verse as though the thoughts themselves were scattered.
Such is life. Such is grief.
A remarkably atmospheric and reflective album, The Hedge Maze and The Spade is meticulously layered and steeped in catharsis. Its unearthly qualities are grounded by both familiar sounds and familial themes, rendering it simultaneously challenging yet attainable. An album that rewards its listener, revealing more of itself with every listen.