Richard Youngs

Under Stellar Stream

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Scottish composer and songwriter Richard Youngs has recorded all kinds of albums since 1990. Some have been solo efforts full of elliptical songs and poems; others have been sprawling extended compositions; some have been collaborations, while most have been entirely solo efforts where the composer plays everything. Youngs is one of the most quizzical, wildly adventurous, and mercurial artists on the independent scene and continues to be. His recordings give up their secrets slowly, revealing labyrinthine journeys one clue at a time. Clocking in at just over 27 minutes, the six songs on Under Stellar Stream are created from the most minimal of melodies played on bass, organ, harmonica, minimal percussion, piano, synth, and of course, his beautiful-- if unconventional--singing voice. On "Broke Up by Night," a pump organ and a minimal synth offer all the support his vocal needs. Youngs half sings as if he were a lone sailor far from home, and half as if he were a chanting, druidic priest revealing wonder at the hidden meaning of all that is in front of him: "Climbin' the stone steps/the albatross returnin'/And all the energy/of trails in the blue sky/And I am rememberin' now/Waiting the time itself/And I am rememberin' now/the value of sleep/And I'm staring through an open window/Creating fire with my sight..." The gentleness and minimal mix, with his voice in the forefront, is gentle, but there is no mistaking its power. On "Cluster to a Star," bells, organ, and skeletal effects accompany chant-like repetition, bringing the listener deeply into the intimate yet expansive universe Youngs observes and becomes inseparable from. "Arise Arise," with its slightly out of tune piano and the smallest kiss of reverb, is an anthemic poem that recalls the pagan Celtic world, and is presented almost as a prayer. An organ drifts cryptically in the backdrop as Youngs incantats, exhorts the listener to surrender their separateness from the elements themselves. Under Stellar Stream is startling in its use of space, its tenderness and in its authority, as it not only observes unseen worlds, but melds that vision with all that is plainly seen on the physical plane. The song structures, as minimal and repetitive as they are, are easy to inhabit, to take on, though it would be easy and deceptive to dismiss them as mere simplicity because they border on the profound. This is the most compelling and magical recording Youngs has cut since 2004's River Through Howling Sky, --though it doesn't resemble it a bit-- though it is unquestionably more accessible.

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