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Richard Youngs - Regions of the Old School

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Artist: Richard Youngs

Album: Regions of the Old School

Label: MIE Music

Review date: Oct. 8, 2013

Even by Richard Youngs’ unpredictable standard, Regions of the Old School bursts out of the traps in the boldest fashion with ‘Insomniac Takeover’, perhaps his most extreme track in ages, one that even puts the material on the recent Amaranthine into the “safe” box. As the title suggests, the song sees Youngs’ channel his frustrations and despair at not being able to drop off by unleashing all that pent up emotion in the most unstable of song forms. Brilliantine drum machine beats hurtle out of the speakers over screaming guitar feedback and clamouring bell chimes, in a manner that suggests all of Cabaret Voltaire’s late-seventies machines collapsing on themselves whilst Youngs’ screams the same line -”Another sleepless night!”- over and over again in a state of near-hysteria, sounding more and more unhinged with every identical interjection. The music stops and starts throughout the track’s 15 minutes of derangement, powerfully, and fitfully, encapsulating every tortured moment of a night of restlessness. After the pastoral country-tinged folk songs on Summer Through My Mind, released earlier this year, ‘Insomnia Takeover’ pitches us back into the wild, untamed territory of early Youngs classics like Festival and Advent.

If ‘Insomnia Takeover’ starts the album with a powerful avant-garde statement of intent, the rest of Regions of the Old School is less intense, but still pushes Youngs out into the bizarre and testing. ‘Another Zonal Air’ sounds like the title for a Charlemagne Palestine track, and Youngs’ lengthy exploration of extended synth drone certainly evokes the American composer, but without achieving the latter’s composerly grace. Instead, ‘Another Zonal Air’ tends to be a bit of a slog over its 12-minute run, although when Youngs injects bells and chimes, it is certainly an evocative slog. But yeah, 12 minutes, 18 if you add the similar ‘Celeste’, which is even more static and foreboding. Richard Youngs pulls zero punches on this massive double album.

The first track on the second record, ‘The Thoughtlife’ serves as the album’s core and backbone, and it may just be Youngs’ most radical since Advent. The man displays a composer’s touch as he slowly melds synth textures, stabs of noise, ghostly woodwind and otherworldly samples, creating a 22-minute epic that builds slowly but never ceases to be in motion. Electronic and analogue sounds are twisted around one another and entwined in hesitant embraces, an alchemical balance that Youngs pushes to the limit. There is a serene, almost tantric core to the track, and indeed the album, as if we’re hearing the man fight off the demons of insomnia that drove the mania of ‘Insomnia Takeover’ by patiently melding disparate musical components in the dead of night. It’s a reminder that, for all his noted explorations with machines, Youngs is an earthy song crafter at heart, whose shadow has seeped through the most primordial cracks in the UK underground in a manner akin to his erstwhile collaborator Matt Bower of Skullflower, or Ramleh and The Shadow Ring.

As if that very thought was playing in the back of his mind at the closing stages of the composition and creation of Regions of the Old School, Youngs signs the album off with a bittersweet stürm und drang love ballad affectionately titled ‘My Love Holds The Galaxy In Her Heart’. The overdriven waves of guitar noise immediately evokes the aforementioned Skullflower and Ramleh, while Youngs romantically intones a forlorn love mantra in impassioned style. It’s a graceful end to a perplexing album.

Regions of the Old School probably doesn’t stand as one of Richard Youngs’ defining statements in the manner of Advent or Amplifying Host, but it’s his most audacious slab since Amaranthine, perhaps even since Festival. Youngs is constantly shifting as he ploughs his lonely furrow, and Regions of the Old School is yet another reminder that each transmission from his strange world is unmissable, simply because it is guaranteed to be unexpected.

By Joseph Burnett

Other Reviews of Richard Youngs


Airs of the Ear

Autumn Response

Like a Neuron

Under Stellar Stream

Amplifying Host

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View all articles by Joseph Burnett

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