Review: Richard Youngs – Summer Through My Mind

Where many artists spend years carving and refining a particular artistic shape – adding detail and extra definition with each sonic emission – Richard Youngs exists more as ethos than object. He is a traveller that itches when stationary, driven by the inexorable will to ingest new places and perceptions; the silence between his records is spent staggering from one musical style to the next, and like a traveller feeding a trail of postcards back to a friend back home, his re-emergence always finds him in different clothes and backdropped by a different landscape.

So where are we now? A sun-baked American countryside; a broken wooden shack with nothing but an acoustic guitar, banjo, fret slide and contemplative mind to work with. There are flashes of pure acoustic pop – clearly defined blocks of jangling chords, choruses that see the music swell toward the anthemic – and bewildering voyages into the centre of deserts, lost in the disorientation of mantras repeated beyond musical meaning. The space feels small and intimately lit. One imagines Youngs sat cross-legged on the floor, singing up toward the room’s naked hanging light bulb – I can hear every index finger slapping against the frets, and every wheezy inhale before a clumsy harmonica blast.

Most of the album’s duration is comprised of two longer pieces. “Spin Me Endless In The Universe” tilts back and forth between two finger-picked chords, caught within its own hypnotic rotations and leaving Youngs mulling over one solitary vocal phrase. It’s soft and gradual, carrying its own central spirit gently upward. “The Story Of Jhon” is the album’s most bleak journey – a story told through strands of slide guitar and the fore-echo of a flat, spoken voice, with lyrics draped haphazardly over a narrative that turns from the darkness of domestic turmoil to a sinister place of fantasy. It is here that Richard Youngs most explicitly emerges from beyond his ever-shifting stylistic guise, dwelling in the repetition of a single state until all musical phrases melt around him, thus revealing the sound as too temporal to call home. And so his onward journey continues.