Richard Youngs, Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits
Dividing its time between sweet folk workouts and busier, more electronic-based fare
Throughout his unusual and eclectic career (which has spanned nearly 30 years), Richard Youngs's music has always been about his voice. It's not like he's got a tremendously dynamic instrument capable of especially rich tones or Mariah Carey-like acrobatics. Rather, it's a thin indie rock warble that often cracks and shakes. Still, there's a sweetness to his approach, and the melodies he constructs on Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits — his strongest album to date — provide the ideal vessel for Youngs to let his primary instrument stretch and run free.
The British-born Youngs grew up in the idyllic London suburb of Harpenden and now lives in Glasgow — always seemingly on the precipice between the hustle of modern living and the nearly mystical quality of the English countryside. The music on Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits splits the difference between those two universes, dividing its time between sweet folk workouts ("Summer Void," "Like a Sailor") and busier, more electronic-based fare ("A Storm of Light Ignites My Heart," "Oh Reality").
Though the arrangements sometimes seem painfully basic ("Still Life in a Room" is little more than Youngs harmonizing with himself over a muted keyboard-generated drumbeat), they are deceptively complex. Guitars dart in and out, fading into feedback and coming back again. Strange percussion instruments sneak into the background, counter-balancing the robotic rhythms up front.
But it always comes back to Youngs's voice. He settles into a dreamy croon for most of Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits, which turn tracks like "Radio Innocents" and "The Valley in Flight" into ethereal trips down rabbit holes dug by minimalist synthesizers. It's not for everyone, but if you give into Youngs' low-fi approach and his "whatever sounds pretty" aesthetic, the songs on Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits will reveal themselves to be deep, beautiful and rewarding — not unlike Youngs himself.