Underwater Peoples (2013)
As somebody who studies ethnomusicology at a major university, a scholarly pursuit I assumed was long since dead, Julian Lynch is probably more qualified to being writing this review than myself. His dedication to music both in regards to society and history is admirable, but it is Lynch’s own musical output that he will eventually enshrine him as memorable in a larger sense.
On Lines, Lynch’s sixth solo album, it is not as though the singer-songwriter/composer has approached the process in any appreciably different way, but the outcome here is vastly different than past efforts. Be it on Mare, Orange You Glad or even his spare tracks for old Underwater Peoples compilations, Lynch has been nothing if not consistent in the way he tweaks his sound and his vision per each album. It remains simple enough to pinpoint the Madison, WI. resident’s sound, yet from record to record his noise never grew tiresome. Lines is by no means a pop record, no matter how convoluted the term has become in recent years, but Lynch finally seems willing to open up his sound to more rhythmic, sonically pleasing patterns. The result is a record that doesn’t drain the listener mentally or emotionally quite as much as Lynch’s earlier work, yet it retains much of what makes him so endlessly fascinating as an artist.
Filled with unusual, tribal, indigenous or altogether otherworldy-inspired instruments and compositions, Lines functions as a way to showcase a lot of what Lynch discovers inside life as a student. In interviews, Lynch often refers to these two worlds as working in parallel, where one borrows from the other and both blossom in a sort of mutually beneficial balance of work and play. Lines ultimately feels like a living, evolving, piece of music thanks to this life that Lynch has struck out for himself. From the first notes on “Going”, slowly awakening like the early morning sun and meditating for a few minutes as it mixes in various guitar patterns and woodwind instruments, Lines comes to life in the same way we start each day: bleary-eyed, disoriented, excited. With the whistling of wind chimes, the smacking of tambourines, the crash of cymbals in the distance, “Carios Kelleyi I” is one of the most immediately inviting tracks on Lines. The precise, sparse use of Lynch’s electric guitar amplifies the song from charming to ineffable, a brilliant juxtaposition that comes together in a gorgeous fashion.
JULIAN LYNCH – LINES ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUES BELOW
This kind of experimentation, though never too bold or alienating, is at the heart of Lines. As the listener breathes, the record breathes with them, and while it no doubt deserves the utmost attention, it doesn’t necessarily need it to thrive as much as past records did. Part of that liveliness comes from how organic the entire album feels. Guitar chords somehow souund stretched out and warped beneath Lynch’s fingers. The bass in “Glove” is obviously out of place in comparison to the rest of the record, yet somehow becomes incorporated in way that makes it the most repeatable moment of the album. It’s both intrinsically folk and a parody of what American Folk has become, and few tracks better encompass that idea better than “North Line”, a spry, banjo and guitar-inspired tune that meditates on notation and precision before being put out to pasture with some electronic keys and a warped, fading outro.
Lines is music for music’s sake. And in 2013, that is an important distinction. Lynch’s records have always been fraught with unique ideas or quaint folk nods, but Lines feels like the final destination for where this has all been heading. Smart and distinctive, Lynch is still in a class of his own when it comes to making music sound new again.