Friday, July 23, 2010

Indy Rock Reviews::: Julian Lynch- Mare

By Josh Ginsberg

Julian Lynch is one of a handful of presumably New Jersey based musicians like Liam the Younger, Fluffy Lumbers and Big Troubles who have become featured on Pitchfork in a manner inseparable from Ulysses S. Grant’s presidential cabinet to me. Associated with Underwater Peoples, a label/collective/something or other from the Garden State, Lynch’s new album Mare, a very enjoyable bedroom rock album, is one of the best the collective has produced. Part of what attracts me to Mare is the notion that many other albums of its kind exist, some better and some worse on Macbooks or 4-tracks scattered among college dorms all over the United States, but that this one stands out against the rest for one reason or another. I don’t mean to disparage Mare. It is quite good.

Apparently, Lynch is making records concurrently with getting his PhD in Wisconsin, if I’m not mistaken. Mare sounds like the work of a highly talented music lover (especially when assuming, as I am, that Lynch plays every instrument) more than a musician (which the Lynch of my mind, who is playing all these instruments quite well, undoubtedly is). The Julian Lynch of my mind is someone who is eking out his musical ambition and talent during the down time of a rigorous previous engagement. Fortunately for Lynch, he is getting critical recognition from juggernauts like P4k, which must be very gratifying. When I checked out Lynch’s Myspace the day after his album was given Best New Music, his tour of the South has a single date listed, with the rest of the dates listing a city and “TBA” or “Need Help!!!”

Mare is an enjoyable listen. It is not a rich tapestry of sound per se. It is faded and muted in ocherous tones: a pale wheat blond, a distant red, a whole lot of soil. The instrumentation ranges from sparse, down-tuned percussion, drums that sound like canyons loosely bound with cloth, to layers of icicle like strands of strummed and plucked acoustic guitar strings to a bass clarinet that sounds on the verge of implosion, rifts of time’s passage along its body affecting its tone and blemishing its appearance. On Mare all the instrumentation is both cohesive and impressive, in a way that has more with atmosphere than chops, but is not devoid of the latter.

If the Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” was eviscerated of the pristine grandeur and sweeping resolve with which it was stuffed and was refilled with a slinky auto-wah and intentionally inauthentic sounding marimba via keyboard melody, it would come close to approximating the album’s title track. Opener “Just Enough” establishes that Lynch uses a similar guitar playing style to Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtenay, who in turn lifted it from Ira Kaplan and Lee Ranaldo, but allowed it to bleach out in the sun and mellow. The melodies are a little stranger and more off kilter sometimes treading Pavement territory, but they are still very decidedly evocative of Real Estate and Ducktails, despite a sound more removed from the beach and more akin to Woods and the woods. There is a weird depravity about Lynch’s guitar playing on “Just Enough” that I find rather enrapturing. The farfisa organ in the background is exemplary of the nice subtleties which spring up all over Mare.

The percussion is impressive throughout the album, as is the dim ambience against which it is set. “Still Racing” is one of the album’s best cuts. It features a choir of hushed Lynches singing atop a thick safety net of acoustic guitars and mandolins. The song could have been at home on Young Prayer by Panda Bear. “Ears” also evokes Animal Collective, albeit in a different way. Lynch sings in a falsetto which evokes Beirut’s horn arrangements in timbre in tandem with Avey Tare. The guitar solo is impressive and sounds as if its notes are stuck in glue or honey, each note sustained giving way into a spill of hot white hum. It is the most traditionally cathartic crescendo on the LP. The furious clarinet playing on “Ruth My Sister” is impressive as well, evoking Bruce Springsteen, Bleeding Gums Murphy, a panorama of back alley imagery and that new Ariel Pink album (just a bit) to me. Another one of my favorite songs on Mare is “Travelers.” Think forests, dystopian guitar licks and avoiding tripping on tree roots while maneuvering frantically as best as possible for an approximation of what it’s like to listen to.

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