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William Tyler
The Impossible Truth Nick Hutchings , June 6th, 2013 06:30

The impossible truth to fathom here is how guitar-plucking American turk William Tyler is able to fashion such an earnest and self-consciously literary soundscape when he looks so impossibly young. In my mind, the sand-blasted, sun-drenched and sooty soft toy on the front of a coast-to-coast travelling flatbed truck has whispered into the ear of our finger picking pioneer, and he has transferred the mascot's musings to music.

The official line though is that Tyler has been influenced by two apocalyptic literary tomes: Barney Hoskins' Hotel California and Mike Davis' The Ecology of Fear. Both books centre on the promise and infernal psychosis of southern California, with its real and imagined dangers lurking in the shadows of the insincere smiles of its people and beneath surface of its shifting plates. Gold-mining the recent melancholy of similar anthems by EMA and Phosphorescent, Tyler's take is a spaghetti western scored by The Band, distant cousin of the Radar Brothers, with a 'how to' from Howe Gelb. The fact that he has a patron in Americana rock royalty Kurt Wagner is no surprise, and testament to the chops of our earnest adventurer. It's on Merge Records from Chapel Hill too, no slouches when it comes to this kind of thing.

Yet there are no lyrics on Impossible Truth. This is all instrumental, and as in Billy Idol's haunting 'Eyes Without A Face' these are songs that say so much without ever saying a thing, piercing windows into the soul. And if, as Will Oldham once intoned 'Idle Hands Are The Devil's Plaything', then William has had plenty of time on his hands in order to play such fiendishly absorbing dirtbowl psychedelia. Some songs like 'Cadillac Dessert' (named for another book, this time by a writer named Mark Reisner) choogle along amiably, but others like the title track strike a discordant, hushed tone. These are not lap steel-infused songs of love but explorations of the loneliness of the long-distance Route Sixty Sixer. I can imagine the oil pumpjacks, or nodding donkeys, bobbing up and down metronomically in hallowed appreciation while tumbleweeds roll.

In fact, the space in between the musical phrases on Impossible Truth are part of what make it so successful - guitar shimmers like the haze of the desert sun on the arid tarmac... evocative and powerful even if you don't have your own Chevy in which to roar towards the broad horizon.