U of Wis. grad student’s new album is a flourish of explorationPublished 10:58am Thursday, March 21, 2013
By day, he’s studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, but by night, he records music.
Julian Lynch, a New Jersey native who grew up playing with the members of Titus Andronicus and Real Estate, has released the album “Lines,” which is brimming with the experimentation and adventurous attitude you’d expect from someone intent on studying music and becoming a teacher or researcher in the field.
Lynch caught my eye because he’s a student at the University of Minnesota, and I’m always eager to hear musicians in Minnesota or neighboring states.
Lynch is studying ethnomusicology, which is a highly academic approach to studying music. It encompasses a broad study of music, with a focus on cultural, social, biological and other factors and not just sound. Brown University professor Jeff Todd Titon called it the study of “people making music.”
With Lynch’s academic ambitions, one might expect an album of overly intellectual, aloof music. However, once I turned on the album, I couldn’t turn it off.
On “Lines,” Lynch is exploring classic world folk with a modest insertion of modern drones and electronics
Many listeners routinely think of folk music as a singer yielding an acoustic guitar and a neck harmonica — think pre-1965 Bob Dylan. What Lynch performs is more of what most in the U.S. would consider world folk, with drums often reduced to simple rhythm keepers, like maracas, rather than a trap set. The music relies more on a blend of sound rather than one instrument.
At first glance, no one instrument or piece of the music dominates. Instead, it’s a flourish of sounds from various instruments: clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, Moog, etc. In fact, most of the musical parts sound relatively simple. What’s complicated is how how Lynch combines them and pieces them into music.
Even the vocals blend in and are often barely audible as another instrument in the churning sound
From reading interviews with Lynch, he intends to pursue a musical career more in the academics than performing and recording. That only reinforces the appearance that his albums, like “Lines” are his experimentations in the field he’s studying.
Lynch’s musical curiosity is initially intoxicating. But after a few songs, the charm wears off and the songs and methods become a bit repetitive to the average ear.