The third production from the Stelzer/Murray project hits a sweet spot of slippery, industrial occultation that harkens back to an almost forgotten period of music from the late ’80s and early ’90s. Think Cranioclast, Arcane Device, Phauss, Small Cruel Party, Organum, and pretty much everything from the Quiet Artworks label. Exquisitely composed and overtly nocturnal without ever falling into the tropes of dark ambient and with plenty of gestures, signals, and threats that allude to any number of allegorically inclined processes (i.e. tape manipulation, time-delay accumulation, electro-acoustic minimalism, etc.). Mastered by James Plotkin.
The Howard Stelzer half of this project has penned the following to provide context about Commit:
“I’d like to tell you about Commit, the third album by Stelzer/Murray. Really, I would. But I don’t think what I have to say would be terribly illuminating. In fact, I’d love it if someone could tell me about what the heck it is we do.
What I mean is this: over the past several years, Brendan Murray and I have had plenty of conversations about our music and have come to the conclusion that we don’t know much about it. We don’t even recall making a lot of it. We’ve listened back to our first album, Connector (which was released by Helen Scarsdale in 2017), and it struck us as very good and also almost entirely unfamiliar. Same with the next album, Commuter (published by Humanhood in 2019). We cannot deny that Stelzer/Murray wrote, recorded and produced both albums… we have vague recollections of sculpting the component pieces into their final forms… but the writing/recording process remains utterly enfogged. How can that be?
Perhaps both Brendan and I compose our music while we are asleep. Maybe the band exists only when both members are in some psychogenic fugue state. Some months later, we become aware that Stelzer/Murray music has been made… by us? Apparently so! We’ve remarked to each other that when we listen back to our albums, it seems as if the music is both ours and not ours at the same time… as if we (maybe) weren’t involved in making it. I assume that we were, but cannot explain how or why any of the stuff exists. I’m okay with that. During an interview several years ago, Brendan and I were asked to describe the Stelzer/Murray compositional process. To our shock and delight, we realized that we couldn’t quite say what it was. We weren’t being intentionally evasive; we just didn’t know. Turns out, it never occurred to us to talk about our music while we were making it. Isn’t that wonderful? Or is dissociation of this magnitude just unnerving? Can it be both?
This new album exists under a similar subconsciously-imposed shroud. I’m not privy to much more inside information about Commit than anybody else is. Was there a mood we were aiming for? A conceptual through-line across these songs? Maybe! It’s certainly possible! If you notice anything, please send a note with a self-addressed stamped envelope to us (c/o Helen Scarsdale) and we’ll respond if we think you’re on the right track. Whatever your guess, we’ll assume that you’re correct since you know just as much about Stelzer/Murray as we do.
There’s one other possibility: Stelzer/Murray music turns out the way it does because its creators work in ways that are both deeply intense, intuitive and intimate. We don’t discuss an album’s architecture because as soon as the initial sounds appear, we both somehow know where they’re headed. We don’t need to articulate conceptual approach or thematic connection because those things are already baked into our interactions over the past 24 years. I don’t mean to imply that Commit is without structure or cohesion or attention to detail… only that those qualities are apparent to us at the same moment that they’re apparent to everybody else. We’re comfortable working this way.
Now, look: this is supposed to be a press release, so I’d better get to the elements that such a document requires. Typically, such a thing would contain some eloquent verbiage to inspire interest in the product. I’ve spoken to the creators of this LP to glean inside information and was offered a sheepish shrug in return. And besides, even if I had the ability to spill some language that sets this music into some clever conceptual frame that might get you to pull out your wallet, I wouldn’t want to. Some loaded adjectives could have the effect of coloring your perception beforehand. Once you put the record on, any suggestions of imagery or atmosphere would only lead to preconceptions that would either be affirmed (yes, this album sounds exactly like I thought it would! Hooray for me!) or refuted (I expected one thing and got something slightly different and so now I am disappointed). Sorry, but I don’t see the point.
Here’s what I can say for sure: Commit is, in both my and the band’s estimation, a great record and Stelzer/Murray is a really good band. I can refer to them in the third person because I genuinely have no recollection of my supposed role in the creation of any of their records. You may point out that the sequence of seven letters to the left of the slash resembles my own last name. I’ll chalk that up to coincidence. Stelzer/Murray may as well be people I’ve never met. Once Commit comes out, I’m a fan like anyone else. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the damn thing.
Playing it at a high volume seems like a good idea.”
Somewhere in Massachusetts