The Rest Is Scenery

The Rest Is Scenery

by Richard Youngs

CD

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Overview

On his Bandcamp page, mystical songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Richard Youngs states that The Rest Is Scenery is ."..high concept, low technique." Each of its 13 songs are composed of a single minor-guitar chord, from E-minor (the first one he learned to play) on the second fret, on up the neck one at a time -- F-minor, F-sharp minor, G-minor, etc. -- all the way up to E-minor again on the 12th. First impressions suggest that such a record would be a chore to listen to. It's not by a long shot. For anyone who has spent time listening to Youngs, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Most of his wildly creative albums emerge from sparse beginnings: 1999's Sapphie offered three long songs with his voice and a lone classical guitar; 2001's Making Paper delivered three more using only a piano, and 2004's brilliant River Through Howling Sky employed only guitars and pianos. Youngs' M.O. uses one chord, but he maximizes it with more instrumentation and budget-level but imaginative production. He plays not only acoustic, electric, and bass guitars, but piano and drum machines. He also gets help from family and friends. Son Sorely Youngs sings lead on opener "Where Are You Going to Get Your Luck From?" amid layers of distorted electric guitar (from Madeleine Hynes), comping piano, a one-note bassline, strummed and fingerpicked acoustic guitars, and loops. Longtime mate Pete Aves (Jarvis Cocker, High Llamas), with whom he played in his first punk band, adds high lonesome steel to the forlorn, haunted, and skeletal "Obfuscation," the all-too-brief "Grounded Stars in the Afternoon" (that also features the Vaselines' Frances McKee on backing vocals), and the shimmering, droning, avant pop of "Fairweather Thoughts." "For Too Long" has a rigid, pulsing bassline and locked kick drum delivering a rigid minimalist vamp that approaches funk -- but doesn't quite get there. Sorely adds a dissonant, wheezing harmonica and Youngs hyperkinetically strums his B-flat minor chord behind a dire lyric pronouncement via his multitracked vocal that travels freely over his range á la Robert Wyatt. By contrast, the uptempo bassline, fingersnaps, handclaps, and constantly strummed guitar in "Like an Astronaut" get dangerously close to pop -- especially as a wonky synth solo claims the end. "The Strangest Day in Earth" is, despite its harmonic restraint and seven-minute length, Bowie-esque in its constant motion and tense drama. Despite self-imposed strategic boundaries, The Rest Is Scenery is a remarkably free and unfettered album. Most artists couldn't conceive of such a thing, let alone pull it off; Youngs does it in spades.

Product Details

Release Date: 12/30/2016
Label: Glass Redux
UPC: 5051996901029
catalogNumber: 10
Rank: 171437

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