Richard Youngs – Belief (4 stars)

Richard Youngs – Belief

Glasgow-based artist makes a tangential but nonetheless deepest-yet foray into the mainstream

Writing this review the day after Mark E Smith died, it seems important to note that Stewart Lee once compared Richard Youngs to the Fall's late frontman, in almost the same breath as he made reference to Martin Carthy and the Clangers' composer Vernon Elliot. The point being, there are still plenty of mavericks and auteurs of unusual undercurrents who are alive and well and with us; but if everyone knew about them, then there would be no underground from which they might make the leap to recognition.

The Glasgow-based Youngs is the kind of artist who seems set to make that leap eventually, albeit very slowly and through an almost osmotic process. Active as a very young recording artist since 1990, he has in the region of 140 albums to his name (although we haven't counted them), and has collaborated with Alasdair Roberts, Jandek, members of Trembling Bells and Acid Mothers Temple and many others, as well as recently co-founding Glasgow's ferociously good space-disco group Amor. With Belief, he makes a tangential but nonetheless deepest-yet foray into the mainstream, through his new label boss Tim Burgess, singer with the Charlatans and a record collector of fiercely diverse tastes.

Burgess is likely to be one of the only floppy-fringed Manchester revivalists in the land who falls for Youngs' music, but Belief is more resonantly, universally affecting than any record sung in such a mournful tone, with a backing which is generally sparse, experimental and artfully detuned, has any right to be. The funereal, minor key synthesiser overhangs on the opening 'My Own 21st Century' remind of The Wall-era Pink Floyd, only less overblown; the loop-pedal balladry of 'Nebulosity' bears a hint of Blur at their most out-there; 'As the Mind Shrinks It Tends Towards Disappearing' is a particularly unsettling kind of post-rock; and 'Feeling Like Dystopia' is measured, apocalyptic storytelling.

As the tone shifts, however, and the resonantly personal 'I Wasn't Alone' gives way to the Gregorian-chanting-to-a-hip-hop-time-signature 'Caledonia Running Out of My Mind' and the rustic mantra 'Otherwise Ourselves', the similarities with Richard Dawson become most clear. Just that level of success and recognition would be nice for Youngs; we don't want to spoil him.

Out on Fri 2 Mar on O Genesis Recordings.

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