Charlie Ulyatt - Dead Birds - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Charlie Ulyatt - Dead Birds

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2016-08-03

Charlie Ulyatt is the very definition of an independent artist.  Thanks (in no small part) to the exponential trajectory of technology, it has never been easier for someone to write, perform, record, produce, and distribute an album free of any concession to someone else's perspective, vision or bottom-line; something that Ulyatt himself has just accomplished.  The Nottingham, UK based sonic-minimalist recently self-released Dead Birds, a defiantly introverted rumination of a record that he self-describes as the culmination of many years spent living in the wild and sparse flatlands of Lincolnshire.  

Eschewing much of what you would typically associate with a solo instrumental/ambient release (electronics, loops, etc..), Dead Birds is an exercise in understated brevity; eight tracks of sparse, solo guitar that slowly unravel and reveal their themselves amid a backdrop of droning vamps and sparse chords.  And yet, despite the minimalistic execution and admirably unprocessed guitar tone and production, the songs themselves are impressively cinematic in scope.   

The album opens with the shimmering, almost chime-like guitar line of “Stealing Shelter”, a song that serves as an overture of sorts for what is to come.  “Breathing Space” and “In the End” further explore this template, deliberately moving from one motif to another, seamlessly blending together.

The musical centerpiece of the album is the seven-minute-plus “Like Dust When it Rains”, a sparsely mournful epic that perfectly demonstrates Ulyatt’s commanding restraint.  The backwards guitar-laden “Hanging Of the Light at Dawn” and the overdriven ambiance of the album closer “Losing Myself” confidently book-end an album that is cleverly tethered at all times to a persistently subtle melancholy.

While there is something to be said for the universal impact of sincere simplicity, ‘less is more’ is one of the more difficult and elusive musical axioms to actually implement.  Rife with hard to quantify intangibles, when it comes to droning, ambient instrumental/electronic music, it’s a very fine line between genius and boring.  To this point, Dead Birds is a resounding success; an absolute must listen for post-rock, prog-rock, ambient, instrumental and guitar fans alike.

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