Father Murphy have always played with sound. Their music is big, daunting, majestic and pained. A three-piece from Venice, they explore music as a summoning of force, a force with the power to be worshipped and feared. Previous releases (three albums and a slew of EPs) rattled through clanking percussion, fraught guitars and folk-melodies-cum-occult-sermons that worked best when twisting sharply between uneasy and beautiful.
Pain is on Our Side Now is their furthest venture into sound without narrative. They sail through layered musical parts without needing a vocal melody present, either as compass or wind.
Released physically on two single-sided double 10-inch vinyls, it is suggested to play both records at the same time. When one does this it does indeed become a very heavy fug of organs, choral loops and occasional, dense, drum patterns. It’s hypnotic chaos.
Listen to the four tracks in sequence and they’re just as intense as their hazy unified rendition, but more piercing for the clarity they’re granted. There’s phantasmagoria in the low, rumbling, bass notes that act as a constant throughout the EP. ‘Pain is on Our Side’ stays very much in this low register and instead of sprinkling moments of beauty on top, the rumbles generate their own brief moments of serenity and harmony.
‘They Will All Fail You’ is a horror film without visuals. Broken glass and screams launch a series of male groans. Heavily edited female words are spliced together and fired into the song. They sound similar to an Atari Teenage Riot rant. After this barrage of vocals, fake laughter and foghorns merge. It becomes very thick and close. Under this intensity, some keyboard lines resonate and modulate serenely. The song ends with a loud mantra of “shame” being shouted as flutes flutter beneath. These contrasts are deeply engrossing.
The band has had some wonderful animated videos made by Luca Dipierro, and Pain is on Our Side Now would once more work perfectly with his animated Catholic depictions. ‘Despite All The Grief’ racks slowly across distorted piano strings, it sounds like a song is being sawed, rather than played. For much of it, sounds just phase in and out. The low frequencies just sit there, calming yet simultaneously unsettling.
The intensity is literal too. ‘Let the Wrong Rise with You’ has pounding electronic drill noises and woodwind instruments playing a series of riffs that descend forebodingly, as though you’ve just got a question wrong on some nightmarish quiz show. There’s a significant sense of grandeur to this release, it’s an horrific sense of grandeur, but an impressive one regardless.
Pain is on Our Side Now is a fascinating listen. It’s an unapologetic venture into head music and contains some powerful compositions. It’s steeped in a sense of reverence, but one that looks below, rather than expecting anything from above.
7Jon Falcone's Score