Richard Youngs

The Naive Shaman

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In 2004, Jagjaguwar issued Richard Youngs's brilliant River Through Howling Sky, a recording of his vanguard songwriting fueled by loads of fractured, dislocated, and ultimately beautiful electric guitar. Taking the open-field form of songwriting he's been exploring since Making Paper, Youngs has typically concentrated on certain single instruments to form the basis of his sonic language. This time out, with The Naive Shaman, it's the home computer aided and abetted by an overdriven bass guitar. Sounds, found and constructed, are woven and knitted to create a companion palette for Youngs' lyrics and voice. "Life on a Beam" offers modal singing techniques that incorporate drone and repetition as they literally float over a slowly evolving open-tuned bass that is heavily distorted and processed, as scattershot drums that provide more accents than rhythms enter and leave, seemingly at random. "Illumined Land" uses the computer's sounds to set a centerpiece for the vocal to circle around and the bass as a constant almost unrecognizable pulse in the background. "Sonar in My Soul" is the closest thing to a pop song Youngs has written in ages -- at least the melody line. Created on top of a bass loop, it is shot through with freakout guitar and electronics as it progresses through its nine-and-a-half minute duration. "Once It Was Autumn" offers loads of vocals draped in electronics and aural shadows. The closer, "Summer's Edge II" is over 16 minutes long and feels psychedelic for all of its free-form, unhinged improvisation that nonetheless keeps dynamic and texture flowing in undercurrents rather than as in-your-face explosions of sound. This is a step deeper, a place where the recording studio is its own instrument that manipulates and conducts all other instruments, including the human voice. All of it, however, is placed at the service of Youngs' haunted, hunted notion of song itself.

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