Album Reviews

William Tyler – Impossible Truth

(Merge) UK release date: 29 April 2013

William Tyler Impossible Truth Nashville guitarist William Tyler’s role in the revolving cast of Lambchop only hinted at his prodigious musical gifts. Impossible Truth is his second album of instrumental guitar compositions, and it marks a considerable progression from his impressive solo beginnings.

Tyler has always sounded influenced by the Takoma school of guitar playing, with his music often underpinned by open string drones and his structures feeling circular or open-ended. John Fahey and Robbie Basho have frequently been deployed as reference points for Tyler’s music, and his nearest contemporary would have to be that other dexterous guitarist and composer James Blackshaw.

Impossible Truth feels like a discreet variation from this path, however. It sounds resplendent, with resonant performances bathed in a seductive pool of reverb and broadened out by subtly elaborate accompaniments. More importantly even than that, however, is the extent to which it occasionally veers out on tangents that feel bright, perhaps even triumphant.

The music is made with Tyler’s now customary care and attention to detail but this time it feels a little less like an extended meditation and more like a vivid, lucid dream. It is also music with a strong sense of wide open space – of the expansive desert of the American west, the lingering memory of Ennio Morricone soundtracks (particulary, and perhaps most appropriately, on The Geography Of Nowhere).

This is a thoughtful work full of joyous little surprises, not least the way Cadillac Desert suddenly and quite unexpectedly blossoms into a gentle Nashville shuffle slightly reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s I Want You, or the sudden shifts in feel within We Can’t Go Home Again. This is no small achievement in an idiom recognised more for its stoicism, rigour and hypnotic qualities.

Apparently inspired by a period immersed in non-fiction works that include Barney Hoskyns’ Laurel Canyon music history Hotel California, Impossible Truth appears to engage with America at its strangest and most majestic. Tyler has also cited MIchael Cimino’s ill-fated epic Heaven’s Gate as among his favourite films on his website and, while the album by no means approaches the protracted duration of that grand folly, it does have something of its wide sweep.

Perhaps more important than any conceptual background to this work, however, is its clear musical success. Tyler has retained the patient, gradually-unfolding raga-esque quality to his compositions, but has blended them with a stronger sense of melody, colour and texture. Impossible Truth is among the year’s most vivid and evocative albums so far, revealing new and absorbing details with every listen.

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William Tyler – Impossible Truth