Review: Annelies Monseré + Richard Youngs – Three:four Split Series Volume 3

The third volume of the three:four split series taps into the pursuit of singlular ideas. The striking (and rather beautiful) cat on the cover slots in with this idea rather appropriately – it’s caught in thought, freezing in time for a split second to contemplate, with a gaze that no doubt intensifies as the clarity of thought increases. Both Annelies Monseré and Richard Youngs indulge in a similar contemplation, and seem to burrow deeper into their respective ideas via a constantly cycling stasis.

Monseré’s idea is a simple one. Rather than choosing a single version of her song “Sand” to include on the split, she presents multiple incarnations of it, recorded on melodica, guitar, piano, cello and organ. The melody – a sombre, single-key affair with a gently plodding rhythm – grows in significance as its message is passed from one instrument to the next, and almost feels like an aged, history-wrapped folk song that has travelled between contexts and down through generations. Monseré’s voice (one part tone to four parts whisper) is the only textural constant, and softly breathes melancholy into the accompanying instrumentation. The closing version for organ is perhaps the weakest of the selection, buzzing a bit too aggressively to let the “soul” of the song take dominance, but this is an otherwise fascinating selection, and sees an unexpected magic crystallising over the process of compositional trial and error.

Young’s contribution contrasts in sound, but tethers itself gently to the purity and simplicity of Monseré’s approach. Guitar is processed into a swirling, flickering mass, possessing a rather trippy quality in its ever-changing harmonic ambiguity and heavy FX reliance. The vocal is once again the anchoring force. Youngs’ is fragile in his delivery – not a trained singer, but a natural and honest one – rising and falling out of the centre with the same lyrics repeated over and over again. No further instruments are called upon to bring about any dynamic gradients, and neither does the guitar solidify into anything melodically tangible; Youngs displays a driven confidence in his singular idea, and pushes it through for nine minutes straight.

While heavy comparisons can be drawn in aesthetics, many similarities can be identified in the musical spirit of Youngs and Monseré. Both display respect for the song as an entity – as a point of reflection, as something that should not exist as a sequence of melodies in which each erases the significance of its predecessor. There’s something quite enchanting about the way in which both artists clutch their songs to their chests, driving them further inwards instead of casting them out in a disconnecting release.