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Posted on June 23rd, 2013 (1:09 pm) by Theresa Flanagan

Julian Lynch’s Lines has a muzzy discordance that asks for rather than demands your attention. It has been rather oddly positively described as “music that sounds the way your brain feels when you’re at work and your kid has kept you up all night.” Nick Neyland of Pitchfork describes his latest album Lines (Underwater Peoples) as “unfailingly polite,” “timid” and ultimately, on par with a “small act of kindness from a stranger.” The Ridgewood, NJ born artist has owned the fact that he made the deliberate decision not to rely on music for his livelihood, he’s currently working towards a PhD in Ethnomusicology and Anthropology at UW Madison. It is a decision that colors the work he produces. He is constrained by the fact that creating music is not something that he can devote all that much time to; it is something to work on in his free time. But this in itself allows a sort of freedom; the music he produces is a form of release; it is what appeals to him in that moment, what he is inspired to create, unbound by any worries of how commercial it is. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t want people to like it. To the contrary, his music has a semi-apologetic feeling, as though because he is not a full-time musician he feels he has more to prove. It means that even though this is far from a debut release, Lines has a refreshing ingenuity, a relatable diffidence. Lynch still give the impression that he is inviting listeners to come along for a journey and hoping that they will enjoy it, rather than expecting or assuming that they will.

I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the late Butch Morris’ numerous Conductions®; an unique blend of control, direction and improvisation. Lines carries a distinct echo at times, in its discordant lines blending into short themes before dissolving again to create new ones. It also shows in the exploration of the different tonal textures provided by the instrumentation, a electronically supplemented instrumental jazz ensemble. Instrumental, because even though nearly all of the songs feature a vocal line, and even lyrics,it never takes center stage. It is just another instrument to add to the mix. The feeling and tone of the human voice rather than the often indecipherable words are what is emphasized. Trying too hard to make out the lyrics only serves to detract from the experience, obfuscating the musical intention.

Lines is in part a take on Americana folk, inspired by Julian Lynch’s time working at Smithsonian Folkways. But that is hardly the only influence present. Between his ties to fellow Ridgewood born groups (Ducktails, Real Estate) and his studies in ethnomusicology, Lynch has a lot of material to bouncing around his head when he sits down to create his own work.The main flaw Neylan points out on Lines is Lynch’s inability to fully commit to anything; lyrics, themes, styles remain ambiguous, not quite fully realized. But the album is a study in contained cacophony, carefully crafted chaos. Precisely what makes it interesting is the ambiguity, the tightly controlled lines that flit on before they have a chance to become too well defined. It is quiet but not complacent, approachable but hardly predictable. Impressionistic is a distinctively apt descriptor for the unassuming yet sophisticated album. The appeal lies in its enigmatic fuzziness, the inability to quite fully bring it into sharp focus.

Available for purchase via Underwater Peoples on March 26, the album can be streamed in its entirety from NPR.

Track List:
1. Going
2. Carios Kelleyi I
3. Horse Chestnut
4. Yawning
5. Lines
6. North Line
7. Carios Kelleyi II
8. Gloves
9. Onions
10. Shadow

Julian Lynch: Lines
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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