Lost Tribe Sound will be releasing three albums from William Ryan Fritch this summer. A History, in Boxes is a uniting between Fritch and writer and spoken word artist Matt Finney. The other two, an extended edition of The Old Believers and The Sum of its Parts, both come from his vault of music for film…
A History, In Boxes is the sound of growing up, the sound of stepping onto the porch and arriving home after baseball practice. Youthful rites and rituals still burn in the heart: those endless, deep-pan summers still glint against the horizon, as do those first dates and the unashamed selfies that were taken as the sunset glowed against her face. Loving and losing both your teenage sweetheart and your virginity in encountering suffering for the first time is one part of the passage: the deep trauma of heartbreak is one of a thousand experiences that, while bittersweet, are there for a reason: they make you feel alive. Finney’s spoken word is from the heart, leaking with a delaying smile and a tear at the cusp of the eye, but it’s always full of appreciation and gratitude.
This is a sweeping slice of Americana, a long-lost relation of a new, explosive folk with a soft inner centre (thanks to the banjo), with electro-acoustic elements similar in vein to post-post-rock. Wise and weary words say the things that’ve settled in the heart. Secret emotions come alive in these vocal love-letters, painting in cherry lipstick Finney’s sublime use of words. Sliding melodies and sun-drained strings swirl in the atmosphere, their light eclipsed by tall trees and summers gone. Propulsive drums energize the music, and they don’t want to give up the feeling – they cling to it. The drumming is elephantine in size and is also a primal war cry, a desperate appeal to anyone who’ll listen during the depths of heartbreak, while ‘Courthouse Wedding’ is a teenage dream, pre-drama, its bleached boards and high windows sunbathing in summer light.
This album is about two women who changed my life. I loved them and lost them both. I was young and stupid and not ready for either of them but they taught me a lot. – Finney
In 2014, only three years ago, William Ryan Fritch and Lost Tribe Sound began releasing a series of twelve albums over a two-year stretch. The Old Believers was a part of that gigantic Leave Me Series. Musically, The Old Believers has a very different tone. Its classical leaning automatically brings about a darker atmosphere. As well as bringing back the original score, the music has been rearranged and the album features eight new and reworked compositions. Music was used from two other recent films highlighting the harrowing situations of those displaced and seeking safe refuge, one of them being the 2016 academy award nominated documentary ‘4.1 Miles’. But calling the music a ‘score’ is a bit of an injustice. While it would be classified (urggggg) as soundtrack music, it’s so much more than that. Why should it prop up a scene on the screen when it has a life of its own? Soundtracks are usually staccato-stilted collections, but this is cohesive and broad in scope.
Fritch’s compositions are jaw-dropping behemoths. His skills in this area are well-documented. Sure, we’ve known about them for a while, but that doesn’t diminish the power of the music. One segment emerges as a shy and softly-spoken soul, a delicately plucked instrumental, while the next explodes with volcanic force. The music has a common, brooding theme at its core, a tension that never settles or stabilizes; no resolutions, mirroring the horrors of uncertainty and the ill anxieties of a life without security or shelter. The strings don’t bend willingly towards a sense of peace. There are tender moments within, and their brevity makes it all the more moving. You can find temporary refuge in its crumbling stone walls and its ancient abbeys, and the album is long enough to find a secluded place within its music.
‘Who Fell the Last Tree’ adds to a sober sky, and its liberated percussion puts a thoughtful, mature musicianship in the limelight. There’s something of native tradition inside the music, of aged folk music and old ways. The dusty strings are caught up in an uneasy alliance with the present, a swirling integration that somehow works, but these old traditions give the music a feeling of warmth in spite of its overcast weather, and the music is kept safe from harm.
The Sum of its Parts starts off in equally dark territory, thanks in part to its classical manifestations, its hanging notes and its low-registered appearances. You should never judge someone based on their appearance, though, and the same is true in music…if you look closer – deeper – you’ll find that the music is livelier than the leaden, conservative-leaning The Old Believers. The music’s got the blues, staring down into an empty bottle at two in the morning, but the second track seems to contradict this as strings wake up and smell the coffee. Come the morning, there’s no risk of a hangover.
The swelling sun lights up the space in an orange and amber light, the glowing dawn promising something special for the day ahead. The music has a stronger aftertaste than coffee; when it begins to pump, getting into its proper gear, it carries something like the clanking of cogs in an iron machine, its smell like that of a copper coin or the frizzling air seconds before a lightning strike. The recurring motifs – a staple in film scoring – are strong enough to not need an accompanying image. The mood isn’t exactly oppressive, but its classical approach ages the music and wrinkles its skin…its bones appear as worn-down sets of ivory, but its spirit is spritely. The music gracefully transfers from a thoughtful mood to an energetic release, swooning into the unknown. Sometimes this happens in a single piece, as on ‘Subconsciously’, but others spread themselves out.
So many artists overthink things…and their music asphyxiates because of it, burdened by unnecessary baggage and too much unrequited love – high on complexity and low on fun. Fritch’s earthy and colourful style knows no bounds; it’s illimitable.