TROUBADOUR genius touched by the hand of the Tim Buckley, collaborator on some very fine albums, sole architect of yet other records that fall very much in that same category, and one of the funniest tweeters in music, Ryley Walker has just dropped a new track, “Axis Bent”, from his early April album Course In Fable, which he’s releasing on his own Husky Pants imprint.
That brilliantly freewheelin’ guitar style he has finds a path between the twin towers of Sam Prekop and an almost baroque soft-rock style, melodically complex, jazz-inflected, diaristic and wholly true to the Ryley aesthetic.
It follows a previous drop, the psych-folk pastoralism of “Rang Dizzy”; which, you need to go and catch that, too.
Although he’s moved to New York, the new album is wholly Chicago in spirit, with that jazz-folk-prog-postrock inventiveness twining, and which the two lead tracks wholly present the evidence of as being a great thing, m’lud. And it sounds like a really strong catalogue of work just keeps getting stronger.
Ryley grew up in the Windy City; and it was to one of the prime movers of that turn-of-the-century scene, John McEntire, that Ryley turned for the making of Course In Fable; the Tortoise and The Sea & Cake man being the perfect foil behind the faders. Though of course if you bring John on board for a record, he’s gonna get involved beyond that.
“I told him to take the mixes and have at it,” Ryley says.
The result is a rich, immersive, complex, off-the-cuff, playful; Ryley half-jokingly calls it his “prog record” – but if you follow him on Twitter, you’ll know he has a deep and abiding love for Genesis’ Duke and other such dusty treasures.
“The pop element is never too far from the surface, even when shit gets weird,” we’re assured.
The album also features the lovely Bill MacKay, whose got an album out on Drag City with Nathan Bowles soon himself, and with whom Ryley’s made a gorgeous brace of long-playing instrumental essays, including 2017’s Spiderbeetlebee; drummer Ryan Jewell who, have you seen him laying it out out live? Wow, is back at the drums, and Andrew Scott Young is in on bass.
As you can also tell from the two single drops, the lyricism remains a glorious puzzle to pore over, hinting at but never explicitly revealing the subject matter; showing, not telling. “Fuck me, I’m alive,” Ryley sings at one point on “Rang Dizzy”, in both senses of the word ‘wonderment’.
Ryley Walker’ Course in Fable will be released by Husky Pants digitally, on CD and on vinyl on April 2nd; you can pre-order your copy over at Bandcamp right now, or make contact with your trusted local record emporium.