I would have happily waited ten years for another Ryley Walker album if it showed even half the brilliance of 'Primrose Green' but here is another one already. Walker is one of the most vital songwriters out there today and early indications of this oddly titled opus show that his lush ornate guitar playing is intact along with a sound that could be linked to fellow Chicago types Tortoise and Jim O' Rourke. The world should be excited.
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'Deep Cuts Edition' 2LP on blue/pink vinyl on Dead Oceans. Includes 'Sullen Mind' (Live at SiriusXMU The Loft).
Ryley. How does he find the time? Always in conference with the sheep; always improving our diplomatic relations with chickens. The barnyard bureaucrat made Clint’s favourite record of last year and possibly all time with ‘Primrose Green’, a record that couldn’t decide whether to be dye-in-the-wool folk or lopsided lounge jazz -- and so did both simultaneously. Walker’s style, which has roots in artists like Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and even weirdo wonderboy Jim O’Rourke, is ultimately winning for always batting a chill innings -- even as it reaches into the weirder, more chancy branches of the ‘70s, his music remains lovely, each song co-ordinated like a cycle that must come back ‘round on itself.
‘Golden Sings That Have Been Sung’ doesn’t make much sense as a title but speaks to Walker’s clairvoyant logic -- just as you trust in him to wind his folk tactics up neatly, his absent-minded lyricism seems strangely coherent in its own world’s way. This record is gentle in its adventuring, with the lightly distorted chord progressions of “A Choir Apart” acting as a cosy spot for his voice to collapse onto. “Funny Thing You Said” is quiet, shoe-shuffling ballad, with complacent piano chords dotted about jazz drums that sound like a pebble skimming water. It’s subtle and unyielding, as if Walker has shaken out his more bombastic moments on ‘Primrose Green’ and left the real quiet for this one.
The quiet’s all you need. Bless those guitar picks: bless “I Will Ask You Twice”. Beyond its barebone guitar figure, Walker wrestles with nimble solos and tiny instrumental flourishes, bringing to mind Sufjan and Kozelek in equal measure. It sounds like he’s trying for some reduction, for a minimalism, but is too aware of the melodies and flourishes available to him. The result is a record of startling additions whose complexities are made humble.
10/10 Richard Customer review, 3rd September 2016
An absolute masterpiece straight from the off. I have to admit that I never picked up 'Primrose Green' and dismissed Ryley Walker as looking like another 70s folk wannabe (so wrong on that count), and I slept on this too long too, so missed the Deep Cuts 2LP version from Norman, but thankfully managed to pick up a copy of that version from my local indie store after hearing the album in full at a friend's place.
Opening tracks on both sides 'The Halfwit In Me', & 'I Will Ask You Twice' both remind me so much of the very best of David Grubbs work which can only be a very good thing, but the standout track has to be 'Sullen Mind' which can also be found in extended form on the Deep Cuts version. I did struggle to think how the band could make such a great 6 and a half minute song into a 40 minute version that keeps you enthralled throughout but they somehow manage it. No mean feat indeed. Even if you can't source the Deep Cuts version anymore it's still a must buy for the regular tracks alone.
I'm not going to say much more than that, as previous reviews have already highlighted the greatness found within this record, except to say that this is the LP Mark Kozelek probably thinks he's making with every new release. If only Mark...
One of the best, if not the best of 2016 so far.
9/10 Stephen Customer review, 20th August 2016
This is a marvellous album. Every bit as good as "Primrose Green". However, "Primrose Green" would be played during the headline set in a smoke-filled, bourbon-drenched club. "Golden Sings That Have Been Sung" is what would get played after closing time when there were only a few regulars left and the band decided to play on. Beautifully mellow, but it's not without its wig-outs, "Sullen Mind" being one such track, whilst "A Choir Apart" and "The Halfwit In Me" showcase the mellow. Brilliant stuff.
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