Rumor has it that when Alexi Murdoch was shopping his full-length debut, Time Without Consequence, to the major labels, one of the execs began timing the tracks from open to chorus. Because of that incident, Murdoch decided to release the album on his own Zero Summer Records instead. It would be a great story if it didn’t prove that artist-icidal corporate greed-heads can sometimes be right: this album is way too long. Time Without Consequence is a deviously clever title that assigns a proactive complicity in human fault to a passive, man-made word for a concept that non-cosmologists understand as a convenient marker for significant events. Unfortunately the clip can also be applied to the underlying material — the consequence of time spent with this album is boredom.
As should be expected for English-bred singer/songwriters heavy on soft, introspective vocals and acoustic guitar, Nick Drake comparisons are immediate, starting with opener “All My Days,” which recalls “Pink Moon.” Murdoch has an ear for the baroque Drake recordings (if there is such a thing), and Time Without Consequence plays out like a battle between the sparse vocal/acoustic guitar pieces and the more interesting neo-chamber rock — the latter presumably the reason Murdoch went the indie route. But Murdoch’s Drake-onian measures win out, and ultimately the six-minute tracks are repetitive and unsustainable. Pink Moon moved with a swift light/dark polarity — eleven tracks floating through and burning out in a half-hour fevered vision. Time Without Consequence dilutes what it thinks it does best by pushing to the background what it should be doing.
This brings us to the album’s other weakness: Murdoch’s vocals are naked and completely exposed. That would work fine for an artist dealing in abstraction, but the personal nature of this album’s less revelatory moments make for an awkward listen. Standard song-smithing insights about not forgetting to breathe, stumbling and falling, and wondering why we are the way we are (in those words) are laid out with a convincing but hollow earnestness.
“Home” and “12” spray rare electric-guitar noise, the former burying the soft orchestral opening and the latter volumizing Murdoch’s distorted, cosmic vocals. These are two of the album’s best moments, and both come off as atmospheric throwaways sucked lifeless by the weak surrounding gravity rather than existing as the weighty, gravitational masses that they could be. Like any album this content-dense, there are nice melodies that as stand-alones would contribute to a great album, but are here fattened up to the point of gluttony. “Orange Sky” is a good example. You have probably heard this simple rhythm somewhere: in the films Garden State and Ladder 49, or perhaps on Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., Prison Break, House, or maybe in commercials for the Honda Element and Hallmark.
In Time Without Consequence, Murdoch has unlocked the formula to creating time: “energy spent by listeners digging for buried orchestral rock fragments” multiplied by “moderately interesting insights” multiplied by “acoustic guitar drone” equals “minutes stacking up on each other.”
Performance on “Morning Becomes Eclectic”