Lost in space, buried in sand, unearthed in time.
Patrick Phillips – Tuba, Trombone, Trumpet, Human Voice, Percussion
Davis Hooker – Upright Bass, Human Voice
Morgan Hobart – Fiddle, Human Voice
Adam Baz – Drums, Percussion, Human Voice
John Gnorski – Pedal Steel, Human Voice
Michael Rae – Mellophone
Colin Anderson – Drums, Percussion, Human Voice
Jeremy Faulkner – Saw, Banjo, Charango
Sarah Winchester – Human Voice (lead on “I Have Eyes”)
Becky Dawson – Human Voice (lead on “Some Will Live”)
Jonathan Sielaff – Contra-alto Clarinet, Saw
Jeff Brodsky – Drums, Percussion, Marimba
Laura Quigley – Upright Bass
Talia Gordon – Human Voice
Christine Busacca – Human Voice
Sage Roselius – Human Voice
Arrington de Dionyso – Bass Clarinet, Jaw Harp
Nathan Delffs – Electric Bass
Benjamin Hartman – Baritone Saxophone
Eric Crespo – Korg Synthesizer, Electronics
Martin (?) – Trumpet
Hannah (?) – Human Voice
O Ryne Warner – Lap Steel, Banjo, Human Voice, Tube Organ, Echoplex, Farfisa, Electronics, Upright Bass, Electric Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion, Ukulele, Vibraphone, Acoustic Guitar, Piano
[FUCKED-UP AMERICANA] At the heart of Ohioan’s sound is a conflict between the embrace of tradition and the refusal of it. Ohioan godhead Ryne Warner seems spiritually opposed to releasing a conventional pop album—a point to which High Country’s avant-noise forays attest—but he also writes a mean chorus. His solution? To leave the sweet, catchy bits strewn like mines across a wasteland of ambient sound.
And so we start High Country with the swirling tape hiss of “Patterns in the Void,” but arrive shortly at the disc’s first infectious jam, a swaggering, minimal country waltz called “Open Road.” The song is a convincing, Emmylou-esque heartbreaker wrapped around the warble of Warner’s voice (a David Byrne-meets-Moby vocal that often reminds of a bowed saw). Warner and company—and, oh, what company, with members of Old Time Relijun, the Shaky Hands, Au, A Weather, Ah Holly Fam’ly and more contributing the disc—tread slowly along a slide-guitar highway.
But rather than stay on that course, Warner gives us the twisted, pounding Delta blues (“Us Tempunauts”), epic banjo-fuzz jams (“Some Will Live”) and aching, nine-minute slow jams (“I Have Eyes,” delivered sweetly by A Weather’s Sarah Winchester).
Then, after another stretch of noise and fucked Americana, Warner gives us the album’s anthem, “Time to Die Again,” a call-and-response masterpiece that could well have been written during the Dust Bowl. In this song, the conflict between tradition and experimentation is peaceably amended: Our struggles are universal, Warner finds. And try as we might to fight suffering or understand our place, life’s puzzle can’t be solved by even the boldest work of art. “Every newborn child is just a prayer in the wind,” Warner sings before the track goes so distorted you’ll think your speakers are shorting out. “It’s time to die again.” Believe it or not, this is a joyous realization. CASEY JARMAN.