While there are dozens of new releases, one off tracks, and compilations to dig through for the No Fee days, sometimes a truly amazing release wafts through the buzz of emails and twitter notifications. I’m prone to checking out anything by William Tyler, especially after last year’s stunner on Merge and the haunting First Cow soundtrack, but I wasn’t expecting another tender offering from him so soon. Recorded in isolation and partly with Scott Hirsch, the EP is based on loss, death, and impermanence. The songs here aren’t precious, but rather unflinching in their somber reflection of bearing witness to death, holding a mirror to grim reality and marking out the measure of it all. Tyler was inspired by the medieval concept of vanitias — juxtaposing death with the impermanence of eartly things, a theme that resonated through a culture threaded with death as a daily reality. It lands as prescient today as it might have then.
The EP sets itself apart from his recent works, turning away from the lighthearted, yet bittersweet ramble of Goes West but falling just shy of the stark landscapes of First Cow. Drones seem to play a bigger part, and the midsection numbness of “Slow Night’s Static,” in particular marks a haunted departure from his usual sound. The works here show Tyler’s prowess, but more so his restraint and it’s a lovely work to bear witness with us all.
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