One could fault instrumental guitarist William Tyler for egotism, releasing a three-song EP so quickly on the heels of his acclaimed 2013 album, Impossible Truth. Containing two songs from his back catalog and a cover, Lost Colony may seem a vanity project on its surface were it not for Tyler’s exploratory nature of his own music in a full band setting.
Birthed from a conversation with former tour mate M.C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) on American psychologist Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Lost Colony opens with “Whole New Dude”, a reworking of Tyler’s 2008 piece, “Man of Oran”, which appeared under his former solo moniker, the Paper Hats. Echoes of Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Way” and “Traveling Riverside Blues” are recalled amid pedal steel swells and Tyler’s electric fingerpicking that finds the four-piece group settling into a comfortable groove of fits and starts. Quietly transitioning into the more melodic second act of “Whole New Dude”, Tyler et al lure the listener in through repetitive passages that increase crescendo before renting the air with guitar squalls that give way to three minutes of bridled Neil Young and Crazy Horse chaos.
“We Can’t Go Home Again”, a composition from Impossible Truth, loses none of the dexterity Tyler showed on his solo version. Rather, the ensemble arrangement changes the tone of the original’s droning mountain stomp into a ringing country waltz that quietly circles its way back around on itself. As the centerpiece of Lost Colony, the expanded sound of “We Can’t Go Home Again” demonstrates Tyler’s urge for musical exploration and sonic dynamics.
Bridging this gap is the EP’s closing piece, a psych-country rendering of Michael Rother’s (Neu!) Krautrock “Karrussell”. “I am trying to explore the territory between country rock and Krautrock,” noted Tyler. Building on Rother’s original electronic and guitar pairing, Tyler’s take is true while exuding an ebullient revelry that could only be delivered in the context of the full band setting of Lost Colony. Such exploration is, in Tyler’s words, “something I would like to go into more when approaching my next album.”
A Nashville native and son of a songwriter, Tyler’s own pedigree speaks for itself. Having played with the likes of Lambchop, Silver Jews and Wooden Wand, Music City’s formulaic process is not one Tyler is soon to embrace. In a recent interview with BOMB Magazine, Tyler cited inhabiting a dream musical landscape where he can establish a position “between Waylon Jennings and Neu!”. If Lost Colony is the precursor to such a recording, like the outlaw Jennings, Tyler is already pushing his own limits and excelling on his own terms.