Published Apr 12, 2016As far as pedal steel players go, there haven't been many able to simultaneously wrench the violence, sensuality and elegance from their instrument as Heather Leigh Murray can, and her instrumental prowess is matched by an equally powerful voice that can captivate and crush in equal measure.
Murray has been releasing music in a variety of combinations since the 1990s, yet her full-length vinyl debut — 2007's Devil if You Can Hear Me — finally cemented the fact that the American ex-pat's singular string/vocal technique is unequalled. The former Charalambides member and Jandek collaborator effectively demolished the grooves of that LP, and has been emitting equally charged work ever since, both solo and alongside the likes of fire music practitioners Thurston Moore, Chris Corsano and Paul Flaherty.
I Abused Animal is equal parts roaring flame and smoldering ember. Murray conjures raging beast roars on tracks such as "All That Heaven Allows" and "The Return," while soothing those same creatures with the elegiac "Fairfield Fantasy" and the understated "Passionate Reluctance." This ability to stretch a unique sonic sensibility in many different emotional directions is what heightens this collection of songs so that it's an experience unto itself. It's an engaging listen that demands persistent exploration. (Editions Mego)