The Naive Shaman
Nothing becomes a music geek like having that special unknown artist that you have a distinct love for, so much that you almost don't want to evangelize it, instead keeping it close to home. This happened a lot with my clique in high school where one of us would get some record that none of our other friends had, and we would horde it for a while before issuing bits and pieces among the mixtapes we all made and traded. My big score was a Some Bizarre compilation called If You Can't Please Yourself, You Can't Please Your Soul, and I smiled a smug, triumphant smile to the astounded crowd when Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel's, "The Only Good Christian Is a Dead Christian" would creep up in the c-90.
My recent secret is apparently Scottish pan-experimentalist Richard Youngs, since I can't find many in my circle that have heard his name. In his 10+ years of operation on a smattering of dinky labels he's created Cage-ian ambient.concrete slabs (House Music), ritualistic drone rock (Advent) and plaintive extended folk ballads (Sapphie, one of my all-time favorite albums ever.) Recently, he's added being the backing bass player for Texas recluse Jandek's recent emergence as a live entity in the UK. On his recent album The Naive Shaman, he applies a mix of his various styles to create a unique eletro-acoustic jewel of a record.
"Life on a Beam" opens this with his high voice, sounding more confident than in past releases, proclaiming "We were born on a laser beam" over a complex bed of 60-cycle wire hum, wobbly reverb and psychedelic 'Tomorrow Never Knows" bursts of drums, giving this a decidedly more rockist bent than past incarnations. "Illuminated Land" takes on a glistening drone that has both Indian and Scottish overtones to it, with washes of overdriven guitar groans not heard since the early Throbbing Gristle releases. But its on the resplendent "Sonar in my Soul" where he really hits his stride. His double-tracked singing laces in and out with itself over a bubbling bass bump, sonar woodblock plinks and school of strange fish swarming around his musical bathysphere. It ends on a sharp stop with his voice trailing over the edge, just enough to clue you into the fact you are levitating.
The album rounds out with the buoyant shanty "Once it was Autumn." and the epic length drone-rock workout of "Summer's Edge II" where his weaving skills are really highlighted. Its serves and an extend culmination of the album as a whole, where his strained voice, feedback guitar squelches and cosmic cicada rhythmic pulses converge in a psychedelic bliss-out without the usual patchouli trappings. This is par for the course with Youngs, where he always can take the given ingredients of his sound and concoct something synergistic and magical. I can't wait to hear what's next.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com