When asked nowadays how best to describe his own music, William Tyler says he prefers going to his default position. “It is like the quiet parts of Pink Floyd without any of the singing”. In fact, the American musician and guitarist tells us that just the other day when he was en route to London he was called upon to answer this very question, by a Belgian customs official no less who was questioning the validity of a very worried Tyler’s travel documents.
William Tyler’s wry self-assessment of the sound that he almost effortlessly creates on his trusty old Martin D-18 acoustic may well be deliberately misleading, but this vignette does at least highlight two of the key elements that percolate through his songs. Driving and being neurotic, Tyler deadpans before closing out his set with an elliptical, hallucinatory ‘Highway Anxiety’, though in truth more accurate thematic musical barometers may well be his desire for travel in general and a need to try and distance himself from some of the more acute concerns he experiences from the immediate world in which he finds himself.
William Tyler relocated from his native Nashville to Los Angeles some two years ago, a move that preceded the release of his fourth album the rather excellent Goes West but did precious little to ameliorate his disillusionment about the cultural disappearance of his homeland and the atrophy of his natural environment.
William Tyler’s songs are entirely instrumental but even without any words his eloquent and expressive guitar work accurately conveys such a heightened sense of these issues and concerns. If you listen very carefully to ‘Gone Clear’, I am convinced that shades of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira can be heard in Tyler’s exquisite and expansive rhythms. Similarly, very faint echoes of Duane Allman’s ‘Little Martha’ resonate through ‘Rebecca’.
There may not be any overt Pink Floyd connection in William Tyler’s songs in Leeds tonight, well not to these ears anyway, but you can perhaps detect flashes of Ry Cooder and the more progressive elements of an early Roy Harper on ‘Kingdom of Jones’ (dedicated to south Mississippi county) and ‘Highway Anxiety’. But whatever influences William Tyler may or may not have absorbed along his own musical highway, he has evolved his own exploratory style, one that melodically fuses fevered apprehension with guarded optimism and lives entirely in one very special, sublime moment.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE