[sic] Magazine

Richard Youngs – Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits

If ever there was proof that music is amazing then this is it. Splicing the recent psych-jam mumbling of The Flaming Lips with the complex electronic layering of A Mountain Of One , experimental Glaswegian resident Richard Youngs ‘s so-called “pop album” is the stuff of genius. Hot on the heels of 2009’s Under Stellar Stream, and with hypnotic multi-tracking à go-go, Youngs successfully executes more ideas on one album than most manage over a whole career.

Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits was originally a 2009 CD-R release via sometimes-collaborator Andrew Paine ‘s Sonic Oyster label. Although re-mastered for this wider re-release, there nevertheless remains a matt finish to the production, slightly dusty and distant, and it makes Ultrahits all the better. Youngs is clearly no fool. Any shiny production, never mind over-production, would have hurt his reclusive, prolifically underground eyes, if not our ears.

It often seems counter-intuitive to talk of textures when speaking of music, but the fabric of Ultrahits is so cleverly woven that it deserves and forgives the extended metaphor. Built on simmering repeats and glitchy overlays, the album open with the wide spaces of “The Valley In Flight” before the rattling echoes of “Like A Sailor” intertwine with chattering glitches to ebb and flow naturally, as well as appropriately. Breaking the textural reverie, Youngs’s trance-inducing vocal climbs out of “Collapsing Stars” like the sun rising, ultimately giving way to electronic guitar graunches that crunch like monoliths awakening.

While Youngs backs himself on echo-y vocal, the introduction of a plodding beat gives the whispering electronica of “Love In The Great Outdoors” a minimal hypnotic-house quality. The sub-two minute “Still Life In Room” is largely a cappella, Youngs drifting over barely-there, curiously nauseous percussion, whereas the thoroughly British indie of “Oh Reality” is undercut with aggressive beats muffled as if by pillows.

Now, with a head of steam building, “Radio Innocents” showcases a wistful, Wayne Coyne -like Youngs over entirely secondary, precision electronica, until those guitar wails are reprised, surfacing like sad but welcome memories to bleed their way through the mix. Bubbling through like a lost Cure snippet, a noticeable bass line however supports the equally striking and un-electronic “Summer Void”. At a push, it’s how pop might sound if everyone wore tank tops.

On the unquestionable album highlight “A Storm Of Light Ignites My Heart” Youngs throws it all together. With retro bleeps, guitar solo noodlery, gently lolloping psychedelic house-y progression and dreamy, overlapping vocal streams, he finds the consistent magic A Mountain Of One haven’t yet quite managed to iron into a whole album.

Ultrahits closes with the haunting and poignant guitar-based plod of “Sun Points At The World”. Recalling moments of the more understated parts of the Grandaddy catalogue, its gentle electronic interference is handled with such pleasing congruity as to suggest the skill of a true artist.

Everything is relative, but to call Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits pop is perhaps a little optimistic, and certainly does it a disservice. With 10 tracks that together only just break the 30-minute mark perhaps there is a concession towards populist brevity, but the complexity of these deft arrangements is way beyond that of the simple requirements of pop. Ultrahits is instantly likeable, but it is Richard Youngs that provides its wholly intriguing depths, ensuring that growing old with his record will be a pleasure.

Advised downloads: All of it, particularly “A Storm Of Light Ignites My Heart”.

Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits is released on vinyl and download only on Jagjaguwar on the 19th July 2010.