Richard Youngs - "Broke Up By Night" (Under Stellar Stream)
For no reason other than a bit of the old nostalgia, I recently pulled Richard Youngs’s 1994 album Festival from the shelves and gave it a listen – the first listen for maybe years. Beyond being captured by the ever ascending, almost Tenney-esque patterns in the closing “The Sea Is Madness”, I was struck by the way Festival‘s instrumental make-up – homemade synthesizer, tape, casio, clock chimes, descant record, etc – is echoed in Under Stellar Stream‘s limited palette of needling bass, tight clusters of synthesizer drones, slowly glinting bells, etc. Listening to Under Stellar Stream afterwards, I heard it differently – as the parent to Festival‘s excitable child, the pre-dawn calm to Festival‘s night time drill.
Richard Youngs does subtle violence to the notion of progression, and the more records he releases the more you realise his entire project could well be this – to ‘voice’ the many different ways one can approach the same subject, or the many different ways one can play within the same limited parameters. There’s a meta-text going on in Youngs’s music, something about historicism and nature and ‘the graze of days’ and almost-repetition, something captured in the way he uses one word as a hinge to figure out simple ways of living. On “Arise”, three chords are the bedrock for an endless exploration of the possibilities of ‘to arise’. There’s something almost Stein-ian in the way that it appears to repeat, but never quite does so.
Indeed, while the formal advances and innovations of Youngs’s music are seemingly self-evident in much writing about his work, his lyrics often receive surprisingly short shrift, a shocking oversight for someone with such a focused eye when it comes to the written word. Like most of his albums – not just his ‘major’ ones on Jagjaguwar, but also his self-released CDRs – Under Stellar Stream does one thing exceptionally beautifully, with great consistency and intelligence (but not intellectualism), rolling out an unending thread of song.