Amplifying Host finds Richard Youngs wandering the guitar desert somewhere between Ry Cooder's Paris, Texas score and Neil Young's work on Dead Man. Yet, the randomly determined chord movements and Youngs' stretched-out vocal passes across the record are, perhaps, more akin to Jandek's Six And Six — here, removed from its gauze and dipped in a dark gold. When Youngs bends strings in this anglo-americana vision, it's like he's bending spoons.
"Make a proper pop album." Thus was the simple dare handed to Richard Youngs from his friend Andrew "Paz" Paine during their weekly Sunday meet-up. Ever the modest master, Youngs said in accepting this friendly challenge that he merely endeavored to capture the "beats and hooks" of contemporary pop. We present the results here as Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits. Among bright, hypnotic loops, Youngs' voice finds its inner Bowie. But let it be known: this collection of house-inspired gems displays much more than a capacity for pop emulation. It's a confirmation of Youngs' craft and prowess, no matter the terrain. With enviable grace, experimental minimalist Youngs sets his sights on the pop world and claims it as his own. Youngs' heretofore unknown love of Pet Shop Boys and the Madchester sound is reimagined via his unique avant sensibility and atmospheric wand strokes. Originally released in 2009 as a very-limited CD-R on Paine's Sonic Oyster label, Jagjaguwar is honored to present Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits, remastered and on vinyl for the first time.
Richard Youngs' latest solo work for Jagjaguwar is a collection of neodruid hymns and chants for the minutiae of homelife and fatherhood — poetic transcendance through repetition and a focus on the (seemingly) micro. Once again proving himself a master of minimalist composition, Youngs also takes leaps forward as a lyricist on Under Stellar Stream, reminiscent of the list incantations of Allen Ginsberg. With this comes a change in Youngs' voice, now less pleading, deeper and more assured. In these atonal, spatial arrangements, each phrase is granted the room to work into the cerebral cortex — and perhaps a deeper consciousness. "I am remembering now the waiting on time itself. I am remembering now the value of sleep," recites Youngs' domesticated avatar on opening track "Broke Up By Night," a celtic prayer for the modern man. On "All Day Monday and Tuesday," over droning bass and slow, meandering organ, the grind of the day becomes empyreal: "All day Monday and Tuesday, the room of work, the room of work... All day Monday and Tuesday, the clarity, the clarity."
Originally released in 1997 and having sat in storage unit purgatory (growing finer) for the greater part of a decade, Jagjaguwar proudly unearths and re-distributes this visceral British take on American outdoor spirituality."VEIL (For Greg) is a carousel ride inside a digital rock tumbler, a battle between gnomes and mercury termites for a maple tree's soul, and the reflection of a pile of Moog turtles in a bathroom mirror's swamp sweat. Throbbing Gristle reimagined as zen garden desk accessory." — William Gass
Autumn Response is a spartan folk-"pop" record filled with tinder-box intimacies, composed of some of the shortest songs ever recorded by Richard Youngs. The simplest form of trickery comes from Richard Youngs' restrained use of an acoustic guitar, bringing it back to Youngs basics. Twenty-six seconds into "I Need the Light", the first track off the album, the listener is confronted with the pivotal element of the record, the drawing line between the hardcore Youngs purists and fairweather fans: the track, like others on the record, features Youngs' double-tracked voice splitting in two - as one overlaid performance veers away from the other. This gesture warrants such a title "King of the Progressive Minimalists" - which is often used beside his name by critics - as the confident inclusion of such an effect grants it legitimacy. Youngs' voices slipping away from one another is on par with other intense representations of singularity such as Donald Judd and Malevich's Suprematist Composition: White on White. Pop is a gesture, a stance, a pose. Autumn Response is a singer-songwriter album, as Youngs' fingers slip over the steel strings with little feet and whispery toes, his gently prophetic songs evoke Roger Waters and the folk phase play is sure to appeal to fans of Animal Collective's Sung Tongs.
Richard Youngs has been making music for over two decades. The Naive Shaman, released in dual format (cd and lp), is his seventh album for Jagjaguwar and is a deeply personal work. Created on a computer at home, it is a high density digital song cycle driven by heavy, heavy electric bass guitar.The opening “Life On A Beam” combines a modal vocal line with throbbing sonics and non-linear percussion. Elsewhere a plaintive voice threads itself through frosted atmospherics and we hear Richard’s first recorded kazoo work since 1992’s “New Angloid Sound”. At the core of the album is “Sonor In My Soul”, a bass loop on to which are collaged strangulated guitar, singing and more singing. The track climaxes in a hollered plea for “unity”. The second half of the set contrasts “Once It Was Autumn”, a succintly crafted dub chant, with the epic “Summer’s Edge II” whose sprawling 16+ minutes anchor a floating vocal melody and free-flowing drums with fuzzed bass octaves.
Jagjaguwar is excited to reissue Richard Youngs’ Advent, Youngs’ very first record originally released in 1990 in the vinyl format on Youngs’ own No Fans label. Only 300 LPs were released initially. It was then later released on the Table Of The Elements label and quickly went out of print. It became a true underground success story, a critical darling, with Alan Licht, for example, putting it on his “minimal top ten list” in the publication Halana. Simply put, it is an essential work in the body of work of one of the most important modern day progressive minimalists. Includes a new essay by Richard Youngs. “A three-part composition for piano, voice, and ultra-nasty oboe and electric guitar, Advent indicated signs of life in a genre long dormant in the 80s ‘experimental’ scene. It continues the tradition from [Terry Riley’s] Reed Streams on down with gusto.”—Alan Licht’s “Minimal Top Ten List”, Halana
If the “musical” real number line is infinitely dense, then the most recent work of Richard Youngs endeavors to fill in all of the holes on it. River Through Howling Sky is Youngs’ latest full-length. It returns to the more meditative and drone-y side of his songcraft (circa Sapphie (1998) and Making Paper (2001)), although this is no true devolution: all of his recordings to date have some measure of these qualities. So what is it that sets River Through Howling Sky apart from its predecessors? It is the density on the recording, both intraspatial and otherworldly. The howling guitar that points unerringly to some imagined horizon line. Throughout, Youngs is the calm and steady wolf, chanting odes to infinity. Expose the ancient Brotherhood of Pythagoras to River Through Howling Sky, and you would find knowing nods, pursed lips, and secret incantations in caves. An unwitting acceptance that not everything is rational or conceptually circumnavigable Our western tonal system relies on ratios, i.e. strings whacked at particular intervals. Young’s howling guitar and circular chants—with the help of a spartan amount of percussion and electronics— may just encompass all the possible ratios and, mystically, more.
Richard Youngs' impressive body of work continues to mount. It resembles, unwittingly for sure, a slow zig zag march towards some Hegelian musical ideal in the distant horizon. Youngs, the leading wizard of droney and minimal psychedelic folk, has unleashed Airs of the Ear, his new opus invoking new magic looking for new ears to ensnare. Building on his esteemed recordings Advent (1990), Sapphie (1998), Making Paper (2001) and May (2002), Airs of the Ear goes beyond merely residing in what is the essential ecology of Richard Youngs — the spiritual nexus between the oft disparate realms of traditional folk and the avant-garde; it now embodies this ecology. Acoustic instruments coexist perfectly with electric ones, while neither class of instrumentation is ever trumped by the other contraptions on the record, namely ring modulation, the square wave or the theremin. Perfect balance is almost achieved. There is harmony, true emotional resonance, even on what is Youngs' most captivating work on the record, "Fire Horse Rising". Despite the ever-escalating nature of this song, where Youngs powerfully and repeatedly invokes "...and I don't understand, ...and I don't want to know...", the listener is never allowed to feel overwhelmed or be pushed out of that special meditative and trance-like space. The spell is never broken.English born and bred, but residing in Glasgow, Scotland (where Airs of the Ear was recorded), Richard Youngs has remained busy over the last two years. In addition to his recent Jagjaguwar offerings, Youngs has remained a very active collaborator (releasing albums with Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple, Simon Wickham-Smith, Neil Campbell, Sunroof!, Vibracathedral Orchestra, as well as being featured on the latest Damon & Naomi live album Song to the Siren on the bonus DVD).
May, recorded at various times in Harpenden, England, is Richard Youngs' solo meditation. His music is magical, but not in the sense that it merely conjures up fantastical imagery or "transports the listener to another place". None of that is really happening. Richard Youngs' spell lies in the transformative qualities of his music. From so little we get so much. It is minimalism without pretense, songwriting that abhors artifice. It resides in the spiritual nexus between the oft disparate realms of traditional folk and the avant-garde.Following in the same spirit of his more celebrated solo works, Advent (1990), Sapphie (1998) and Making Paper (2001), May is, like Sapphie, just acoustic guitar and Richard Youngs' voice. Like the others it has an unmistakable "drone-like" quality that has, over time, become one of Youngs' trademarks. But what sets May apart is that it is almost a conventional record; six songs, just over 36 minutes, no song over 8 minutes. If you listen carefully enough to the plaintive, stripped-down and gentle rumbling of the songs on May (and squint hard enough), you can almost discern a semblance of verse-chorus-verse structure. And, for sure, May derives much of its glory from the traditional and the hymnal. If there is a "psych" or "trance-like" quality to Youngs' music, it is charged only by internal endorphines, natureês most underrated drug-mechanism at work. Richard Youngs treats his body of work very much like his own body. He is very careful with what he lets in.
Richard Youngs' first three-song "full-length" release shone down like a beacon from above. It opened with a chorus of tape hiss and a patently English-sounding piano. Eventually there was a British man pleading in song for mercy, for pardon, or, at the very least, for conviction to a lesser charge. This was ADVENT and it was 1990. Youngs had just introduced himself to the universe at large through his No Fans label.Fast forward to the New Year, 2000. Youngs is back on the stool, this time in Edinburgh, Scotland, with long-time collaborator Brian Lavelle engineering. Youngs has another three songs in him, and they show him to be a much wizened, more patient man. Distilled to only piano and vocals, the album is epic to say the least. Opening with "Warriors", a 19-minute journey the size of Scotland, the song pleads, "Warriors see through battle lines." The second song, "The World Is Silence In Your Head", is vintage Youngs fare, offering further evidence that there is significant kinship between him and the ranks of the late-60's to early-70's progressive rock set such as Peter Hammill and his Van Der Graaf Generator, as well as first wave Yes and King Crimson. The song is as sprawling and imaginative in its mythology as the most inspired of prog's deep canon ever got. Yet it tells the tale in less than three minutes and with only one phrase and one instrument, with unprecedented clarity and precision -- not to mention poesy. Certainly it warrants that Youngs be crowned the king of the progressive minimalists. He preys on the most meditative tendencies in each of us, and he finds the essence in each of his songs (throwing out the rest) which endeavours to put erstwhile listeners in a trance-like state.
Jagjaguwar is proud to announce the reissue of one of the most important unheard treasures of the last half decade of the twentieth century. Originally issued in 1998 by Oblique Recordings (its second and final release), SAPPHIE was Richard Youngs' fifth solo full-length and quite a unique album in his already unique oeuvre.Made up of three acoustic tracks -- spanning over 37 minutes in length -- featuring just classical guitar and voice, SAPPHIE is quiet and introspective. The songs feel like an intimate journey by hand through a song cycle of loss and renewal. Within the context of his massive and ever-growing body of work, SAPPHIE is his most song-based and arguably his most personal. Fans of reclusive sages like Nick Drake, Anne Briggs and Robert Wyatt will most appreciate the timeless quality inherent in Youngs' songs.In regard to his more experimental work -- with collaborators Brian Lavelle and Simon Wickham-Smith, for instance -- Melody Maker has called him no less than the "grand-meister of contemporary British improv, spiritual son of Eddie Prevost and Maddy Prior; gentle manipulator of English hymn-notics and religious incantations; protege, challenger and radicaliser of folk, blues, rock, minimalism and improvisation; translator for the sea and the rain and the sky; ambassador to war and peace, to love and anguish," and "poet-seducer of souls."