Review : Richard Youngs - Under Stellar Stream
DustedmagazineFor no reason other than a bit of the old nostalgia, I recently pulled Richard Youngs’s 1994 album Festival from the shelves and gave it a listen – the first listen for maybe years. Beyond being captured by the ever ascending, almost Tenney-esque patterns in the closing “The Sea Is Madness”, I was struck by the way Festival‘s instrumental make-up – homemade synthesizer, tape, casio, clock chimes, descant record, etc – is echoed in Under Stellar Stream‘s limited palette of needling bass, tight clusters of synthesizer drones, slowly glinting bells, etc. Listening to Under Stellar Stream afterwards, I heard it differently – as the parent to Festival‘s excitable child, the pre-dawn calm to Festival‘s night time drill.
Richard Youngs does subtle violence to the notion of progression, and the more records he releases the more you realise his entire project could well be this – to ‘voice’ the many different ways one can approach the same subject, or the many different ways one can play within the same limited parameters. There’s a meta-text going on in Youngs’s music, something about historicism and nature and ‘the graze of days’ and almost-repetition, something captured in the way he uses one word as a hinge to figure out simple ways of living. On “Arise”, three chords are the bedrock for an endless exploration of the possibilities of ‘to arise’. There’s something almost Stein-ian in the way that it appears to repeat, but never quite does so....full text
StrangeglueI could just knuckle down: tell you how little I know about Youngs and the massive discography that he has issued from his adopted home of Glasgow since moving there in the early nineties. Attempt to describe the slow cold orbit of sounds that revolve around the man’s voice, which occupies the space between a plea and a command - the warmth being in the breath - put something between a six and an eight in the little firing squad stars down below, and go do something else.
But this is strange music, stranger yet thanks to an extended listen to recent David Sylvian prior to listening to Under Stellar Stream for the first time; causing the two to blur, together dragging all manner of wilderness into my room before the sun has cleared the hill. Spiderwebs, dusty mirrors, dew weighing heavy on the mind.
Being two thirds of the way through this epic invocation, which I imagine continues through the last two of the six tracks, I am enmeshed and captivated by the stark sounds and stark, unflinching sincerity in Youngs’ piercingly ancient vocals. Not piercing in the shrill sense, they literally pierce the fleshy dam of what feels like a reservoir of ancient experience, entangled and forever bonded to emotion; it is flooding out and filling my body and mind.
But before this experience took shape I underwent a palpable grappling with the music. I imagined many of the friends for whom I have a great respect, and I imagined their dismissal of this music, their inherent distaste for the gloom and the introspective, arcane lyricism. I struggled with my empathy for their perspective and the wisdom in it, and an inner sense that if I could exert enough effort to steer myself away from indulging in the bleakness, that I could recover something beautiful.
Under Stellar Stream has been that powerful for me, and although I don’t want it to end, being now in its final two minutes, it has been too powerful a thing this morning for me to repeat it. In that sense it reminds me of certain passages of Mount Eerie’s most recent record, Winds Poem, which I reviewed here....full text
BbcSince the early 90s, Richard Youngs has been engaged in a dogged journey that has pushed out to the very edges of songwriting.
Operating somewhere between oblique sound-collages, performance art and at times a mutant experimental pop music, his work and numerous collaborations document a serially prolific talent that borders on the obsessional.
Constructed from lo-fi components and self-imposed artistic restrictions, this album imagines an eclectic retro-future folk music threaded together from a series of hesitantly executed hand-me-down motifs. These are, in effect, fragmented slivers of half-heard tunes whose scarce chords and mournful atmospheres slowly evolve like a minimalist pibroch.
Despite taking what is often a sparse single melodic idea and then locating it in the scantiest of sonic settings, Youngs nevertheless creates moods that are almost unsettling in their intimacy and intensity.
Their impact is due in part to the dissonant fragility of his voice, occasionally reminiscent of the way Robin Williamson or Robert Wyatt can strain to breaking point, often challenging the usually accepted boundaries of a chosen melody....full text
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