Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)

Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)

While it seems everyone, rather bafflingly, is banging on about Arctic Monkeys‘ new album as though they’ve released their Metal Machine Music or something, Chicago’s Ryley Walker has quietly released his first genuinely challenging record. Not that it’s hard to listen to, far from it, but there is less of the “bright and breezy” that informed his first few albums and an almighty dollop of “woozy” instead.

Take ‘Accomodations‘ as a prime example, with its catatonic, jazzy aura more commensurate with, say, a David Lynch dream segment, while the brief vignette of “don’t let me spoil the fun” is the sole ‘earworm’ of the track, returning as it does at seemingly random moments and somehow sticking with you many hours after you’ve finished listening to the album.

Much of Deafman Glance has a real “can’t be arsed to get out of bed” feel to it, but in a wholly relaxed manner that suggests Walker is more than happy to stay snugly beneath the quilt. It’s only really on the Fleetwood Mac like ‘Opposite Middle‘ and closer ‘Spoil With the Rest‘ that we revisit the whimsical foliage of Primrose Green or Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. Sure, you could to an extent say that ‘Telluride Speed‘ could be mentioned in the same breath, but here he tries to take it off in other directions too, like Pentangle or something.

Expired‘ is like the long lost companion piece to ‘Lonely‘ from Tom Waits‘s debut album Closing Time initially, but probably the overriding feel I get from Walker’s fourth solo album, is that this is his Astral Weeks, with gorgeous moments of aching beauty scattered all over it. As is always the case with Ryley though, these are based on a loving appreciation of is favourite artists – knowing winks, if you like, rather than just a cliched appropriation of them.

Deafman Glance opens with the bleary eyed strains of ‘In Castle Dome‘, a sense of foreboding which permeates throughout, but if it is possible to pinpoint the one decision that informs the essence of this fine set of songs, it is the inclusion of Bill MacKay (with whom Walker collaborated on last year’s SpiderBeetleBee) on electric guitar, which is something of a masterstroke, leading many of the compositions here off in interesting tangents.

Some folk are born to experiment, and Ryley Walker, thankfully, has the nous to do so gracefully; it’s not always perfect on Deafman Glance, but when it works, it really does make an impact, and further cements the guitarist as one of the most creative composers of our generation. We should all be grateful for that at least.

Deafman Glance is released on May 18th through Dead Oceans.

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