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Richard Youngs - Autumn Response

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Artist: Richard Youngs

Album: Autumn Response

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Mar. 12, 2008

In Armies of the Night, Norman Mailer, at a party, tries to avoid a friend who is reviewing Why are we in Vietnam. “No,” thinks Mailer, “let [MacDonald] disapprove of me until the review is written…he would certainly bend over much too far backward if for a moment while reviewing the book he might have the thought he was sufficiently fond of Norman to conceivably be giving him too-gentle treatment.”

One feels like MacDonald here, in fondness protesting too much, perhaps expecting too much. Richard Youngs has always danced on the line between the sublime and unbearable. I want to follow this time as he steps decisively past it, but I’m not ready.

Youngs, at heart a guitarist, has a remarkably varied output. In solo records on Jagjaguwar, he has gone from minimal folk (May) to maximal folk (Airs of the Ear) and sidestepped over to electric, instrumental blues drones (River Through the Howling Sky). In collaborations with Simon Wickham-Smith, Makoto Kawabata, and many others, he has generally abstained from singing and explored more improvisational guitar styles.

Melodic repetition and sung mantras have been a decade-long theme and combine when, as on Autumn Response, Youngs makes folk songs. He is obsessed with the repeating units of landscape – horses running, trees shedding leaves –and can be almost stubborn in iterating a theme until it seems to have gone on much too long. Over months, one can become addicted.

In a technique Youngs is exploring recently, as in collaboration with Andrew Paine on last year’s 1958, Autumn Response layers different takes of the vocal and guitar tracks over one another, out of phase. The disequilibrium shatters the simple melodies that can transform from clinical to personal over time. Youngs, never saturnine, seems heartbroken of late, as if the rays of light that used to pierce his gloom have gone dark. His joy in repetition, replete with cheerful mistakes, has been replaced by sickly pallor.

What will happen in the spring? Will we get sucked into this, too? Will Youngs come out of hibernation and switch styles again? Spring is a relief from winter, and autumn from summer. One never knows.

By Josie Clowney

Other Reviews of Richard Youngs


Airs of the Ear

Like a Neuron

Under Stellar Stream

Amplifying Host

Regions of the Old School

Read More

View all articles by Josie Clowney

Find out more about Jagjaguwar

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