Restocked! The unplaceable, implacable Richard Youngs presents a personal selection of five CDs taken from his long-running private press imprint, No Fans, plus 2 discs of previously unreleased and very covetable early material. An enigma to most, us included, Youngs' output over the years stretches as far as the ear can see, from tangled modular pop craft to noisy psychedelia and cranky folk, earning him a considerable cult fanbase in the process. These CDs include some of his rarest material - all of which were issued in tiny editions of between 20 - 50 and only available for sale at live shows or in Glasgow's sadly defunct Volcanic Tongue shop. Perhaps of most interest, are they unreleased pair bookending his career. The first is a 67-minute set recorded in 1989 and discovered in Neil Campbell's suitcase, spanning motorik discord and Ghedalia-like singing-in-tongues thru to the remarkable harmonic chorales of 'The Dead Fly', exposing him as one of kind in that era; the 2nd brings us right up to date with the 62 minute session of 'Thought Plane' capturing a Laraaji-like sweep of zither (harp?) and joyfully kosmic synth strokes at home in Glasgow, 2014. For adoring fans and noobs alike, it's a beautiful, otherworldly trip.
Disc 1 - 20th Century Jams
As the title suggest, Pre-2000 recordings by Richard, some dating back to the 1980's! "19 Used Postage Stamps" is a live recording, with furiously strummed guitar and Richard's keening, untrained voice. "Inner Sky" is a long electric drone/voice composition, similar to some of his work with Simon Wickham-Smith and Brian Lavelle. "May Verses" has Richard multitracking his voice, with each word piling up in ever-changing combinations. "Live in My Head" is a shuddering piece of "what's that sound" electronics ala Youngs/Wickham-Smith, complete with a ripping monophonic synth interlude.
Disc 2 - 21st Century Jams
"Live in Glasgow" is another audience-mystifying tour-de-force, with Richard wordlessly vocalizing over what sounds like acoustic guitar accompaniment of 100% string squeak and scrape - not a riff in sight. "Easter 2001" is a drifting haze of ring-modulated belltone. "This Life Gives Force" has a more conventional vocal melody than much of the other material on this set, presaging the hypnotic minimalist "folk" of his recent albums. "Sun Lay Lay" is more human-scale musique concrete, with bizarre stereo panning, manipulated voice, and Richard playing the maracas.
Disc 3 - Multi-Tracked Shakuhachi/Live in Salford
Multi-Tracked Shakukachi is exactly what it sounds like - three compositions where the simple breathy sound of this most traditional of Japanese instruments is turned into a hailstorm of overtone. On Live in Salford, Richard blasts away on slide-whistle (!), creating chirping and overtone-saturated pitches that bring to mind gone-loco Steve Lacy playing a birdcall. There's a fabulous acapella version of "Another Day Of Gravity" at the end that has some of Richard's most animated "trad" singing.
Disc 4 - Somerled/No Home Like Place
Somerled starts with a bonkers "noise" organ jam that at least partially recalls the epic prog-style organ on Ilk's "Canticle" (vhf#87), seguing into the beautiful "Mixolydian Sea Tone," with vocal loops overlaying a drone that would have fit in perfectly on Eno's "Music for Airports" (!). “No Home Like Place” is more systems-type music, reminiscent of Terry Riley, Fripp/Eno, etc, but with an edgier, less formal atmosphere. Just beautiful.
Disc 5 - Three Handed Star/Garden of Stones
Three Handed Star is a long composition for accordion, voice, guitar, bass, and other instruments, starting as almost British-trad, shanty-ish conventional song and evolving into various wondrous permutations, punctuated by Richard’s occasional interjections of “Hey!”. One of the nuttiest, most appealing things in the whole R!!! catalog. Garden of Stones surveys several different styles, from the polygot instrumental strategies of "1," the delicate folk stylings of "2," etc. Most of this is subdued and beautiful.
Disc 6 – Harpenden!
Remarkable excerpts from a private recording made by Richard in 1989 and gifted to Neil Campbell in an edition of 1. Roughly contemporaneous with his all-time classics "LAKE" and "Advent," this is remarkably fully-formed, with the instantly recognizable vocal and nylon string guitar of those early records delivered in deliriously minimalist settings. The crashing of "To The Hill" is the same technique as on LAKE's "Chord" – which was merely one of the best minimal gusts of all time. "The Dead Fly" is a lengthy mostly-wordless vocal + echo piece, presaging later work in this area, where echo was replaced by multitracked voice.
Disc 7 – Thought Plane
Previously unreleased 62 minute recording from 2014, an elegant long-form ambient accretion of gentle tones and wordless voice against a subdued and hypnotic sequencer pulse that eventually accelerates after more than 40 minutes into something more thorny. Not an exaggeration to say that this piece represents much of the wisdom hard-won via the type of in-depth experiment conducted elsewhere in the No Fanscatalog.
"Over seven albums covering 1989–2014, either previously unreleased or released in very limited run, Youngs ranged from explosions of feedback to psychfolk mysticism, including speaking in tongues, and experiments with zithers and shakuhachi flute. Clive Bell said: “Youngs, now something of a Glasgow based eminence grise, shows no sign of slowing down or limiting himself to any genre. He is the postpunk autodidact’s postpunk autodidact.” TheWire Best Albums of 2015