In terms of sheer creativity and the willingness to draw influence from the most unlikely of sonic sources, hip-hop producers – and the genre as a whole – have long embodied a paradoxical battle between progression and stagnation. As a genre of cunning scavengers, hip-hop is clearly unrivaled in its ability to snatch the standout artistic bits and pieces of other styles and transform them to not just fit urban landscapes, but to move them. Of course, stealing sounds has rarely meant understanding and incorporating the structure of those other styles, and in this sense hip-hop has been largely spinning its wheels for the better part of a decade, with its constant influx of would-be beatsmiths simply drawing from the same shallow well of limited concepts and ideas.
So, what does all of this mean for the crafty sound creators who see their Technicolor compositional dreams constantly boxed in by the rigid structure of simple rhyme-directed beats? Well, in the case of Toronto producer Nicholas “Murr” Murray, it has meant reaching out to the far more expansive and rhythmically diverse universe of electronic music, hip-hop’s future-focused, lab rat cousin.
Murr’s tales date back to the mid-90’s, when groups like the Dream Warriors and Ghetto Concept – propelled by Murray’s producer collective Da Grassroots – represented the face of Canadian hip hop. While those formative years were essential and would eventually lead to partnerships with artists like K-os and Mood Ruff, Murr was frequently finding an electronic sound and rhythm pallet far more appealing, and would slowly lay his foundations in that musical neighborhood. Pensive, moody, intricately layered soundscapes touched up with subtle global infections became the introverted beat conductor’s main mode of expression, as he began to release his works on house producer Nick Holder’s DNH imprint, and through the like-minded Public Transit Records label.
By the time the world stumbled nervously into the year 2000, Murr’s influential electronic group, and social force, LAL were brought to the fore of the Toronto music scene. As his tastes and techniques developed, so did his desires to branch out into other auditory mediums, an interest that has landed him in the world of theatrical sound design. Murr’s ability to excel at an artform so demanding of sonic subtlety speaks to the length’s the man has gone in sound exploration, and the proof rests in the extensive works he’s done with a host of progressive Toronto theatre companies, including bcurrent, Obsidian, Pass Murait, Mammallian Diving Reflex and Birdland theatre, which produced the DORA-nominated Last Days of Judas Iscariot.
Now fresh off the release of LAL’s inspired ‘2012 disc, “LAL”, Murr embarks on his most personal endeavor to date, dropping his ambitious release “My Best Dress”