William Tyler - New Vanitas Music Album Reviews

William Tyler - New Vanitas Music Album Reviews
As the instrumental guitarist’s work develops, it has moved further away from something resembling instrumental Americana and toward ambient soundscape.

During the late Renaissance period, a style arose among Dutch and Flemish painters called the “vanitas,” a sort of memento mori that foregrounds the inevitability and absurdity of human mortality. Usually still lifes, these paintings sardonically collapse symbols of decadent lives and grim deaths into a single, grotesque image: a skull surrounded by precious jewels and goblets of wine, flowers that will eventually decay among human remains that already have.
The idea of life and death, co-existing as one experience, is the defining principle of New Vanitas, a new EP released with minimal fanfare by instrumental guitarist William Tyler in September. Vanitas as a concept speaks directly to 2020, a year defined by the collective whiplash of attempting to process staggering death and unforeseen catastrophe while still being forced to carry on with much of life “as usual.” Though not a quarantine album per se, New Vanitas was shaped by and inevitably reflects the uncertain conditions of the times.

The project is the result of Tyler’s return home to his native Nashville during the pandemic, of looking inward, sifting through childhood memories, and stripping back to essentials. The musical vocabulary he pulls from—both stylistically and sometimes literally, with samples of radio monologues broadcast to no one in particular and intense feedback on tracks like “With News From Heaven”—owes more to avant-garde esoterica than his previous records. His inspirations are as much about the materiality and texture of sound as the actual content: He cites “old cassettes, slightly warped records, nature recordings, southern Protestant hymns of childhood, homemade music.” As Tyler’s work complicates and develops, it has moved further away from something resembling instrumental Americana and toward ambient soundscape, closer to the KLF’s Chill Out than the post-country noodlings of Lambchop.

Tyler has long been a confident and skilled multi-instrumentalist, but with New Vanitas he comes into his own as a composer and designer of sound. This year’s Music From First Cow was Tyler’s most Spartan effort, a work defined by silence and pauses as much as by notes, and New Vanitas continues to explore sparseness. In Tyler’s hands, it’s not just the guitar that lives and breathes, but every string; his playing imbues each strum on songs like “Big Sky Waltz” with a unique interiority.

There are still traces of melody, like the light percussive pattern on “Four Corners” that turns it into a shuffling slow dance, but New Vanitas is Tyler at his most meditative. The EP reaches an apex with “Slow Night’s Static,” a 12-minute tone poem that dissolves sustained notes and snatches of radio chatter into a single, swirling pool of sound. “Pisces Backroads,” the final track, is a purifying, euphoric drone, a ceaseless build of sensation. Static seeps out of the margins of the composition and soon envelops the whole.

In a written reflection accompanying the EP’s release, Tyler credits filmmaker Kelly Reichardt as an essential component of his artistic evolution. During their collaboration on the First Cow soundtrack, Tyler writes, “She challenged me to confront some of my own melodic and compositional tendencies towards, as she put it, sentimentality: ‘Don’t tell people how to feel with this. Be open to the moment.’” Though Tyler’s music reaches beyond clear boundaries of genre or traditional songwriting, his music has in the past been undergirded by a sense of sweeping melodrama—an emotional narrative expressed even in the absence of lyrics. The songs on New Vanitas don’t tell stories as much as they mutate and unfold naturally.

Vanitas paintings express the impermanence and temporality of human existence, a theme Tyler explores in his turn away from standard melodies: No note is stable, because each fluctuates and abstracts itself the longer you hold it, constantly becoming something new. When life may feel more unsteady than ever, New Vanitas seeks peace in uncertainty, drawing a blurry horizon line by which to anchor yourself.
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
William Tyler - New Vanitas Music Album Reviews William Tyler - New Vanitas Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 11, 2020 Rating: 5


Post a Comment