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Julian Lynch - Terra

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Artist: Julian Lynch

Album: Terra

Label: Underwater Peoples

Review date: Apr. 19, 2011

To give credit where it’s due, Terra shows that Julian Lynch’s songwriting has become much more solid. The question, though, is whether composing in a style that more clearly defines the idea is helping him any. Lynch’s first album, Orange You Glad, showed him at his best when dealing with sound on a quantum level. Odd bits of pop pastiche glommed together in a style that could only belong to an aspiring ethnomusicologist. Chaos reigned in the small-scale way that only residents of the lo-fi ghetto could sustain. With Mare, that entropy was ironed out for the sake of pleasant genericism. The ideas remained, but they were searching for a voice.

Terra continues to struggle with that question of artistic identity even as Lynch further cements his process. The result is a lot of chaff and wheat that still need to be separated.

Let’s start with the wheat. Lynch’s strength isn’t invention so much as innovation, picking up historical tendencies and making them enjoyable again even as they echo their sources. In particular, “Terra” and “Fort Collins” stand out, not just as great rounds that seem to grow with each vocal pass, but also as a reminder of what made Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, respectively, great in the first place. Not of the pop backwash on Veckatimest or Tomboy, but of “Who Can Win a Rabbit” and “Merge.”

Unfortunately, there is still a large part of the album that gets bogged down in that same backwash. “Clay Horses” is just a generic Ridgewood, N.J. cliché that leads not even to ambivalence, but apathy. In even worse shape is “Ground,” stagnant at best and the worst kind of background music, the kind that makes you say, “What exactly was that?”

There is hope, though, which takes the shape of “On Eastern Time.” Elegant, understated, and simple, this immaculate song drives on a startlingly complex mechanism. The emotive power passes to a new voice with each new element introduced, starting with spectral pinch harmonics and ending with a banshee organ line that arrives completely unforeseen. It’s unlike anything Lynch has made before. He’d do well to make sure what comes after lives up to this same potential.

By Evan Hanlon

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