Throughout the history of recorded music, there has been an infinite amount of artists that gently slip under the radar. Most notable of the modern breed are the outsiders of acoustic-wielding songsmiths; the John Faheys, Simon Finns, Bert Janschs and Nick Drakes of the popular music canon. These musicians will all more than likely pass away into obscurity (If they were not already born into it), only for their music to be rediscovered by later generations of music fans.
Hailing from Scotland via Cambridge, Richard Youngs is just one more unsung artist; a multi-instrumentalist whose prolific output includes collaborations with the enigmatic outsider Jandek, Matthew Bowe and Makota Kawabata, among others. His music displays a scholarly understanding of improvisation and appreciation of all things musical, as he acts upon his own free will to create something of his choosing.
Made in the memory of a pet Alsatian, Sapphie
is perhaps Youngs' most traditional and 'pop-oriented' album; here, he abandons his avant-garde leanings in favor of just three long pieces for nylon-stringed guitar and voice. The production gives a sense of intimacy to each song, as if the music is being played out in your mind. Abundant use of vocal reverb seems to give Youngs' voice a certain 'floating' quality while his cheap classical guitar provides a more earthly counterpoint.
From the beginning acoustic pluckings of "Soon it Will Be Fire," it becomes obvious that this is an album of nostalgia and heartbreak. Youngs slowly lets out each word in his distinctly British accent, over hypnotic arpeggios that seem to dance around each syllable. He only deviates from this pattern when the echo of his voice gently fades away, allowing the fingerpicked strings room to breathe. The following two pieces slow down the pace, bringing Sapphie
to even more saddening points. Youngs delivers the first instance of semi-intelligible lyrics, as he moans out phrases such as "And the future isn't anything" that despite appearing to have no meaning, convey much of what Richard Youngs seems to feel.
The eighteen minute "The Graze of Days" closes out the album at a crawling pace; instead of a constant flow of sounds, Youngs utilizes periods of silence and emptiness. This creates a wearisome, tired feeling, only to be brought back to attention and left once more to the castaway sounds. With Sapphie
, Richard Youngs collected these castaway sounds and created a masterpiece in the process. Seldom will you come across an album with such bare honesty and drifting loneliness as this, and if you do - feel very sorry for its creator.