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Richard Youngs - May

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Artist: Richard Youngs

Album: May

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: May. 7, 2002

Richard Youngs is a weird guy. I mean, I am of course basing this opinion solely on what I have read about him and the few recordings of his that I have heard, but still. Weird. This wily Scot has been making music and in the process defying strict genre classifications since the early nineties, swapping labels, styles, partners, motifs, and recording techniques as the desire has struck him. His music encompasses a wide range of styles that seem almost incompatible, ranging from walls of noise a la Dead C and the like, to minimalist improviations with kazoos, sometimes stopping off to record sparse, singer-songwriter type folk music. Marking a minor departure from last year's collaboration with Acid Mothers Temple guru Makoto Kawabata, Young's latest release May finds him exploring his softer, more meditative side, using only minimal plucks from his acoustic guitar and simplistic, often repetitive vocals.

On first listen, then, the obvious comparison for this new collection is fellow Scot Nick Drake, more specifically the Pink Moon era-stuff and the random four-track guitar recordings collected after his death. For sure, tracks like "Bloom Of All" and "Trees That Fall" revel in the same sparse acoustic phrasings and somewhat cryptic lyrics that made Drake's final record such a masterpiece. At the same time, however, Youngs eschews the morbid fanaticism in which Pink Moon was drenched. Instead of building songs, however, Youngs prefers to work the same guitar lines over and over again throughout the course of the song, letting tiny subtleties distinguish each line from the next. If anything, this could be labeled minimalist folk, along the same lines as some of his more avant garde experiments, but at the same time it seems as though a lot of the material here is equally indebted to American blues - the simple phrases, the lyrical repetition. Regardless, the overall effect is still wonderful - spare, and sometimes distant, but warm and inviting all the same. Tracks like "Wynding Hills of Maine" and "Gilding" don't stray much from the formula at all, but at the same time still manage to reveal a deeper influence of British folkies like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn.

It’s not as though the material here is anything groundbreaking, and indeed after his excellent work with Kawabata this album seems like a bit of a letdown. After repeated listens, though, it still shines through as an excellent record. Youngs’ playing remains tight and engrossing, and the overall simplicity of the lyrics and guitar lines make it seem as though this record will slip right by, and yet it never really does. With the approach of summer, this seems like an excellent record to while away the steamy nights while sipping a cold beer and staring off into space.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Richard Youngs

Airs of the Ear

Autumn Response

Like a Neuron

Under Stellar Stream

Amplifying Host

Regions of the Old School

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View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about Jagjaguwar

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