Saturday, October 24, 2015

Song of the day

"Parliament of Birds", by William Tyler.

(Parliament of Byrds, more like, given the twang that Tyler sets up at various points throughout this monster.)

A couple of months ago, as you know, Wilco gave away their new album, "Star Wars", to anyone that wanted it. The catch came a few days later, when they put up a blog post suggesting records that you might want to buy in lieu of payment for the Wilco album. One of those records was "Deseret Canyon", the reissued first solo record by William Tyler, originally released to precisely no fanfare or acclaim in 2008. Tyler has gone on to bigger and unexpected things since then (you should hear his version of Michael Rother's "Karussell"). I already have a couple of his more recent albums. He is at the centre of the recent wave of reinterest in what has been called American Primitivism (although there's not too much that's "primitive" in Tyler's playing). Tyler, like the others lumped under this dubious rubric, shows a clear debt to the playing of John Fahey (not to mention the song titling: exhibit 1, "Waltz of the Circassian Beauties").

Anyway, heeding Wilco's advice, and seeking to assuage my guilt at having procured free music over the Internet (perish the thought), I bought a copy of "Deseret Canyon". (You're welcome.) For a first album, there is certainly nothing tentative or, uh, juvenile about it. "Parliament of Birds", the second song, maybe sets up a template for Tyler's future trajectory. It is the kind of free-flowing, long-form piece of music that could go anywhere, and in its execution on the album does manage quite a few unexpected turns, all of them tasty.

Bonus beats: those of you who consider yourself "heads", or anyone interested in further research and/or curious to see how it is done, might like to watch this audience footage from Germany of Tyler doing this very same song, albeit with six more years of water under the bridge. Around the six-minute mark he builds it up into the kind of chugga-chugga that is guaranteed to have you dancing around the living room. How that much sound can come out of one guitar? Beats me.

(By the way, the Wilco record isn't bad, either, even by their lofty standards. Its sudden appearance, and relative brevity, might convey the suggestion that it was put together rather quickly, but that's not always a criticism, and isn't in this case. Tweedy is known for wanting to keep Wilco fresh. Put it this way. If I had paid money for it I wouldn't be complaining.)