I love it when a record, movie, book, or television series gives me what I want along with a few things I didn't know I wanted.
When an artist or group fulfills my expectations right down to the letter, I get bored pretty quickly. It's like eating the same delicious piece of chocolate day after day after day. Within a week, I'm gonna crave something different—even if I don't like it as much—as opposed to the colleague who eats the same microwavable meal for lunch year in and year out. I don't know how she does it.
And that's how I feel about Julian Lynch's third full-length. I found "Carios kelleyi I" entrancing, and hoped the rest of the album would sound like that, but it doesn't. I listened yesterday morning, and felt disappointed, partly due to the muffled singing—and I'm a big believer in the understated vocal—but then I listened again that night, and it clicked, possibly because I expected the mumbling, which ceased to bother me as much. Guess it helps that I used to be into Basehead.
One of Susan Sontag's favorite Euro-noirs: Tarr's 1988 Damnation (Kárhozat).
As a whole, Lines isn't radically different from that first single, but there's more variety than I expected. The use of saxophone contributes to a jazz feel, but this musician and ethnomusicologist also draws on Eastern European traditions; not the boisterous, cacophonous stuff Goran Bregović has been composing for Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, but the more introspective work of Hungarian artists like folk singer Márta Sebestyén and Béla Tarr's fabulous composer Mihály Víg.
Lynch's use of clarinet also brings XTC's Skylarking (1986) to mind (and the watery bass playing reminds me of Japan's Mick Karn). Though XTC couldn't stand working with Todd Rundgren, he helped them to craft one of their best records.
Lynch doesn't sing like Andy Partridge—let alone Sebestyén—but he's produced his own, less overtly British version of that gently psychedelic, pastoral vibe (while "Carios kelleyi I" recalls English Settlement's "Yacht Dance"). Six years after the Skylarking experience, Partridge wrote, "Todd conjured up some of the most magical production and arranging conceivable. A summer's day cooked into one cake." Lynch has done something similar, albeit on a smaller, more intimate scale.
Underwater Peoples releases Lines on March 26. Stream it now at NPR Music.