You might not know the name Rick Myers, but you might be aware of his work. If you have bought, or seen, a Doves, Lamb or Ed Harcourt cover you will know Myers’ eye for detail. The music he makes is more avant-garde than you might initially suspect, based on his day job, but it is of an intricate style. Using cut-up vocals, Myers creates layered pieces of work that at first feel confusing but after repeat listens start to make sense. On his latest release Obstacle 80XT, Myers unveils his most musical but abstract work to date.
Obstacle 80XT is effectively a bootleg, remix and promo all rolled into one. It was created in Myer’s studio with a test pressing of his debut solo album, Obstacle 80 which is more of his cut-up spoken text work. Using a turntable, piano, piano strings, and some studio equipment Myers has created three pieces of music that lurch, and sloop, along. Despite being disjointed, they strangely deliver some killer melodies and rhythms.
‘A1’ opens with the sound of creaking, a piano that sounds like it’s being played underwater, and distressed piano strings. It sounds like a horror score composed by La Monte Young. Reverb heavy vocal samples suddenly emerge. You can’t really work out what’s being said as the loop is buried under what sounds like light-sabres glitching. Then the piano starts to go out of synch. It lurches forward and back, before some scratching that wouldn’t be out of place in a DMC final starts to dominate the track. What is more remarkable is how seamlessly it all flows, and works, as a cohesive song. The second side is made up of two shorter songs. They are no less as wonky as ‘A1’. ‘B1’ opens with the same piano loop before descending into abstraction. It’s catchy and with each repetition we are drawn into its tightly concentric motifs. There is no scratching or vocals, just the piano loop, but this works in ‘B1’s’ favour. We are left with a captivating melody that just goes and goes and goes.
Listening to Obstacle 80XT you get an idea what the full album could sound like, but at the same time you have no idea. An uncle of mine used to work in the car industry. His job was to take the new prototypes out and test them in extreme weathers and at high speed. To disguise the shape of the finished car, they used to attach extra fins, elongated wheel arches and smaller grills. Photos of some of the tests would feature in trade magazines and newspapers next to artistic interpretations of the what the finished car might look like. They never got it right and his company always hid things away, sometimes in plain sight. The same is probably true of ‘Obstacle 80’. Myers has elongated certain sections, skewed, and totally eclipsed others, but what is certain is that if it’s half as good as Obstacle 80XT then we’re in for one hell of a treat!