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Richard Youngs
Under Stellar Stream Hannah Gregory , October 28th, 2009 13:48

How do you record the banality of modern life, and turn it into something beautiful? How do you persuade yourself that routine can be reassuring, spiritual? Why, you thread experience through a steady stream of instrumentation; sing sky-high hymns of expression and experimentation. This is Richard Young's trick, at least.

Youngs has been at the quiet forefront of British improvisation for over twenty years, prolific in both solo and collaborative output, agile in acoustic, electronic, and vocal manipulation. He scarcely performs live, and yet collaborates diversely - with Matthew Bower, Makoto Kawabata (of Acid Mothers Temple), and Jandek, to name but a few.

On this solo LP, (his 26th, give or take) the acoustic pickings and patterns of previous releases, such as the acclaimed Sapphie (1998) are superseded by a lonesome lyricism. Here, it is Young's folkloric voice that opens the series, strung out over rippling synthesiser tones, climbing up to a Celt-like chant. Here, his lyrical song writing has spread wings. Now an assured troubadour, his path seems to wander freely, off-beat and off course. As the astronomical title of Under Stellar Stream announces, Youngs' words are poetic and searching, seeking solace in the ozone and the beyond.

Entering the six song series is like turning the lights off to a smattering of stars; like viewing expanses of sound through a telescope, zooming in on electronic microcosm. Sparse spatial arrangements of atonal texture meet lists of Ginsbergian incantation. The bass drones and slow organ of 'All Day Monday and Tuesday' hold repetition as their dynamic; repetition within which tiny changes to a routine schema or schedule offer blips in the loops of living. Cosmic corridors continue in 'Cluster to a Star', kindred spirits with Robert Wyatt's 'Solar Flares' (in soul), and Steve Reich (in minimal, twinkling composition). By penultimate track, 'My Mind Is In Garlands', Youngs bears witness to how the calm of music offers repose from the confusion of the mind. Whilst cerebral words draw towards near desolation, his notes reach a far-away oblivion, then fall off - as if space analogies could go no further - into silence.