[18 January 2010]
In J.D. Salinger’s 1961 novel, Franny and Zooey, the former title character attempts to ceaselessly repeat the words to a simple prayer, hoping that after time they will eventually synchronize her internal psyche with the external peace of God. With a similar premise in mind, Scottish composer Richard Youngs, one of the most prolific and daring artists on the independent scene, composes his latest album, Under Stellar Stream. Featuring a collection of only six hymns fixated on the seemingly simple, mundane aspects of daily life, the release comes off initially as dull, uninteresting, and, yes, obnoxiously repetitive. After a few spins, Youngs’ repetitive chanting, which alternates between the solemnity of a Gregorian chant and the tonality of a Tibetan throat singer, begins to sink into the subconscious. Cushioned by minimalistic, often barely audible melodies, Young’s overt lyrical clichés transform into meditative hymns to the repetitiveness of habit and daily life so much so that when Youngs sings, “My mind is wandering / My mind is changing” on “My Mind Is in Garlands” over just a few plunked organ chords and an oscillating celestial drone for the third or fourth time, it’s tough not to feel the album’s hypnotic tug on reality.