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Richard Youngs

Scottish guitar experimentalist and poet of sound Richard Youngs first emerged in the early '90s with the gripping, abrasive yet lovely Advent, on which he established himself as both the successor to minimalist experimenters like Terry Riley and a loving reinterpreter of traditional blues and folk music. Like Loren MazzaCane Connors, another brilliant guitar player with whom Youngs has more than a little in common, Youngs has received very little acclaim for his highly original and innovative work, but has pressed on nevertheless, releasing a steady stream of albums throughout the '90s. Youngs has dabbled in drones and repetitive sound collages, at times recording electronics, found sounds, strange percussion instruments, and even kazoos as accompaniment to his devastating guitar improvisations. The guitar and a prevailing feeling of sorrowful yearning are the only constants running through Youngs's varied body of work.

In 1998 Youngs released his fifth album, Sapphie, an ode to a deceased Alsatian for whom the record is named (Jagjaguwar re-released the record two years later). It's nothing but Youngs's high, soft, anguished voice and the complex language of his classical guitar for nearly forty minutes, yet it never ceases to be enthralling and remarkably moving. "Soon It Will Be Fire," the first song from that effort, is a deeply intimate heartbreaker, a marvel of a song that flies you up near heaven before setting you gently back on earth.

In 2001, Youngs issued another minimalist masterpiece, Making Paper. It's an epic journey of voice and piano that employs a bare minimum of musical resources to evoke a plethora of moods and ideas, as evidenced perfectly by "The World Is Silence in Your Head."

Youngs's 2002 record, May, follows an increasingly familiar pattern of stark voice-and-guitar progressive folk. Recorded over a period of six months in early 2001 in Harpenden, England, May is a remarkable piece of hypnotic and repetitive minimalism. With their mixture of plaintive vocals and droning acoustic figures, these songs take on an almost hymnal quality, as with the spiritual meditation "Wynding Hills of Maine."

Youngs's music is as astonishingly accomplished as it is honest. He has a remarkable talent for taking you through cycles of loss and regeneration, leading you through fire and ice, making you feel you've lived a little more, felt a little more, really done some traveling. Give him a listen; you won't be sorry you did.