petak, 29. ožujka 2013.

William Tyler - Impossible Truth (2013)

Nostalgija za atomskom bombom nad Nashvilleom.


After touring as a guitar player with Lambchop and Silver Jews for over a decade, William Tyler has tumbleweeded his way across the country enough times to be a scholar on the wonders of the American west. On Impossible Truth, Tyler tumbles from the badlands of South Dakota, all the way to California, until finally rolling right into Laurel Canyon. That final destination was inspired by Barney Hoskyns’ Hotel California and Mike Davis’ The Ecology of Fear—two books with a strange California-themed kinship that Tyler read on “lonely midwestern drives,” before blending their bizarre subject matters to form the nuanced story that is Impossible Truth.

Rooted in the American west, “bittersweet nostalgia and apocalyptic expectation,” the album is a masterful foundation of traditional folk beneath layers of experimentation with surreal sounds and classical song forms. The colorful and cultivated vibe of Laurel Canyon in the ‘70s—when it was home to artists like Joni Mitchell and The Eagles—is captured with an array of guitars, but in the place of lyrics lies the enlightened plucking and picking of Tyler, the virtuoso guitar player whose “The Geography of Nowhere” was mistaken for some of Jimmy Page’s 12-string work by my dingbat little brother.
Psychedelic-leaning tracks like transcendent opener, “Country of Illusion”, reveal Tyler wielding a sitar, or at least some enchanting Eastern modal scale. Much of his sophomore album depicts him as a guitar genie, floating in a hazy cloud of hookah smoke that keeps mumbling hypnotic incantations to conjure images of eerie desert nights, cockamamie goose chases, dusty Cadillac cruises, and the rambling Appalachian trail. But his musical travels surpass his geographical ones. Judging by his use of repetition, melodic themes, and his choices in voicing and emphasis on different instrumental parts, this isn’t Tyler’s first rodeo when it comes to classical arranging techniques.
Incidentally, he’s a lot like composer Aaron Copland in his love for large song canvases and his vast set of musical influences; Impossible Truth is flecked with everything from jazz to psychedelic and Spaghetti Western. Maybe this kind of depth is more common with instrumental music, but regardless, this is an uncommonly good album.- Erin Manning

I have no idea what the Carter years were like; I was born in 1985, the year after 1984. The year after we got over/past 1984. 2013 is that year in some regards: the year we got over 2012. Either you were a practitioner of pseudo-scientific, misplaced Mayan anxieties or you were a concerned person in a t-shirt on a northwestern February day. Anxieties can and will occur, and for good reason. But what happens when the spaces in time that breed reactionaries subside into anxiety loss? Does the severed dread lead back to the multi-lane freeway? Some are still anxious for good reason; time doesn’t solve problems for us, either going forward or moving backward. Nostalgia as an act is a problematic creation in this way. Are we asking the past to fix our problems?
And to some degree, nostalgia is a condition of that anxiety. However, in music/music criticism, it’s a dirty word, a condition of hipster-retro-(mis)remembrance that passes off the excuse to keep playing that NES over a shiny Xbox 360 (or whatever the fuck is out right now). And to this is some weight: do we really need some Mumford/Lumineer figure telling us what the “authentic” America “used” to be like? Is a steam-powered grill going to work in your day job? Hell, even for myself, watching the 1990s come up with more gloss than dirt has caused me to (occasionally, unfairly) pass off the occasional band or artist.
But life is often like a science fiction film, a good science fiction film, where remnants of the past (often our own present) remain, even just as set pieces. People still drive 20- to 30-year-old cars, live in old buildings, etc., etc. This is the case in music — especially in music. Sure, keep it new, be new, blah blah new blah blah… but don’t actually. A creative condition is set more in the execution of aspects that support an idea, and to what ends make something “creative” rest more on every aspect about the art in question.
In this context, Impossible Truth makes sense to me as a very good album about nostalgia, and not in the way where I feel compelled to criticize it on a “sound-contemporary” basis or on the critical level where I knock people down for fucking with my childhood. It feels less about a specific kind of packaged nostalgia rather than nostalgia itself, a compositional deluge derived from William Tyler’s love of 70s singer/songwriters, a sort of perfect paring in contrast to his own guitar extensive execution: no words means no singer, which also means the carried-over aspects are forced to be executed in phrases and movements. The songs of Impossible Truth move into minor moments from major ones, and visa versa, as if a mood shift were nothing, and much like John Fahey (who is far too easy of a correlation for Tyler, and for which’s sake, I am trying to avoid), the phrases of Tyler’s own chosen past artists are executed by means of saying “Here’s me singing you. I can’t sing like you, but here’s you to me.” To be more specific, Fahey would (as occasionally Tyler does) pick up specific modes of musical phrasing from Mississippi John Hurt, not to attribute to a “blues” phrasing or change, but to the man himself.
But, of course, Tyler knows what he’s doing. As a hired guitar player for the likes of Lambchop, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and The Silver Jews, his “Americana” quality of musical execution is the kind of thing that would fit in a so called “neo-Americana” landscape. Except that right now, in a space without the backing of an already established artist, it kind of doesn’t fit. Decontexualized from the great yet already established songwriters he’s worked with, his work takes on a different quality that forces its sonic end to justify itself in the abstract. This sounds bad, but for all reasons it is a strength of the album, which brings me back to this “nostalgia” thing.
As somewhat stated above, anxiety produces a condition that leads the way to a nostalgic output. William Tyler tells us in an “album teaser” (to which I’m not sure I fully recommend as an accompaniment to the album) that he was “born in the Twilight of the Carter administration,” to which some would say with some vexation, “The Carter administration had a twilight period? You kidding me?” Of course, we are conditioned to remember the past better than it actually was; it’s a counter reaction to modern and contemporary stress, but by no means does it signify an ill-creative. Much rather, it signifies that the condition can provide a means for individual expression, albeit with much study and practice.
Much of Impossible Truth fixates on an idea and runs its phrasing well over the five-minute mark. Tyler’s compositions tend to be strongest when his own guitar playing takes a side seat to the song as a whole, allowing for simple bass and brass accents to take over while his fingerpicked guitar takes to one side of the ear. The last song, “The World Set Free,” is probably the only one that doesn’t run an idea for its maximum possible length, flirting with what some more technically minded folks would call “range.” The song moves from a sound that Tyler has spent the whole album establishing, a single acoustic guitar phrasing that turns into a very short guitar/drum bashing psyche freak-out, which then transitions into a feedback drone against electronic drums, which then finds Tyler fighting his way through the noise, playing the initial phrase in tremolo in the background until the end. It’s the one song on Impossible Truth that refuses to let you get lost in anything (after a whole album of somewhat clear, long spaces) and by far the strongest in that sense. Personally, it feels like one of the shortest 10-minute songs I’ve heard in awhile, and not in that annoying “prog-rock-change-time-signatures-100-times” kind of way. It’s as fluid as any of the other songs on the album, just injected the wrong way.
But this album is easily taken as it is, a good side portrait of the parts of America that are somewhat still in the throes of modernity (if we all aren’t to some degree). A drive around easily shows the parts that didn’t make it and the parts that aren’t going to make it a much better treatment than this whole “Americana” thing (which I would love to stop using that word). Either we need a new way of addressing the issue of nostalgia or we need to address it for what it is rather than what we want it to be. Conditions are reactionary, artistic expression is the space of the ideas. A ghost town emerges, the past in now, and we are affected. - Alex R Wilson

The Nashville-based William Tyler is obviously an amazing guitar player, but it takes some accumulated hours with his music before you begin to notice and savor his deeper qualities. Making an album of wordless solo guitar compositions that remains interesting for its duration is hard, demanding a range of subtle skills far beyond nimble fingers-- a fine, exacting ear for color, an intuitive sense of momentum, a mind for musical structures. These are fragile musical gifts, difficult to cultivate and even harder to point out, and they become even more fragile when the focus bears down on a single instrument: You are painfully exposed, both as a player and as a musical mind.
Impossible Truth is Tyler's second richly satisfying and absorbing record of solo guitar in three years. His finger-picking offers a lovely, rangy meditation on the power of the good old open-string drone, and if you listen closely, you can hear his searching intelligence animating every note. The cobwebbed cycle of chords that make up the center section of "Cadillac Desert" are played like an inner monologue, dimming and surging like a gas lantern. Tyler employs some of the same back-up instruments here as he did on 2010's Behold the Spirit; wisps of pedal steel guitar, stand-up bass, vibes and xylophone, softly glowing horns. But his guitar remains the single waveform bouncing through your headphone-space for nearly all of Impossible Truth's 54-minute running time, and it never once grows tiring.
Once you're fully immersed in Tyler's world, you'll probably stop thinking of his music as "solo guitar." He has an uncommon way of making tangles of picked notes ring out like the melody of a searching pop song. Many of the Impossible Truth's pieces trace the contours of a mood that feels similar to the Beatles' "In My Life": wistful, valedictory, touched by fatalism. "We Can't Go Home Again" opens with two chords that pirouette mournfully from major to minor, before easing with into a series of variations on a pentatonic theme that grow in forcefulness and confidence over three-and-a-half minutes. By the end, it feels a ringing refutation of the title's gloomy proposition. "A Portrait of Sarah", a tribute to Tyler's girlfriend, Sarah Souther, opens small-scale, singing a particularly romatic and sweetly ascending tune that eventually kicks into a romping double-time. It's a heart-filling moment, one of the only expressions of boundlessly personal joy on Truth. If there were words to this song, they would cheapen the feeling.
It also helps that Impossible Truth, like Behold the Spirit, is gorgeously recorded. Tyler's lines resonate a sonic space that sounds cavernous and chilly, like he's recording in a drafty, empty church. Although Tyler claims he was trying to escape John Fahey comparisons with this record, through the lived-in confidence of his playing and the sense of folkish ease settling into his compositions, he moves closer to the bracingly simple beauty that Fahey's music embodied. His strummed open chords on "Country of Illusion" even hint teasingly at Fahey's version of "Joy To The World," from the Christmas classic The New Possibility.
But as he moves closer to Fahey's spirit, Tyler sounds more and more like himself. Every melody he plays, like the one that opens "Last Residents of Westfall", somehow feels as it if was always there, a rare musical quality that only settles in after years of weeding out the quotations that have crept into your playing. Once you've reached this rarefied air as a player, whatever your musical mind touches will come out transformed, and Impossible Truth is music of almost metaphysical calmness, in which Tyler's guitar surveys inner vistas and notes their vastness with a kind of Zen detachment. - Jayson Greene

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