Julian Lynch tends to work quietly. Since 2009, the songwriter and guitarist has made these cautious, cloudy pieces that billow like snuffed out campfires. He's occasionally used big arrangements – often favouring spiralling brass sections and towering harmonies – but he does so in a way that still feels somehow small. When he chooses to operate in a vast scale, he does so gaseously, a few molecules of song drifting away from each other to fill a room. For a minute, he was, paradoxically, churning out these recordings at a pretty rapid clip, somehow managing to quickly arrange his spectral vocalisations in between his PhD studies in ethnomusicology and anthropology. But since 2013, his solo output has matched the disposition of the tunes – the pace has been subdued.
Lynch hasn't released an album since then, which is sorta unusual given his previous track record, but there's a couple of big reasons. One is that in 2016 he picked up a new job – he's now the lead guitarist for Real Estate, a band his lilting playing fits quite naturally. Another is that, in addition to his still ongoing school obligations, he just worked a little slower this time – to allow the music to breathe and change as the years ticked by. His songs have always had that sense anyway, a quiet life, so why not allow them that space?
Today, Lynch is announcing Rat's Spit, due out January 18, his first full-length since 2013's Lines, as well as sharing the first single "Meridian." In a press release, Lynch explains that the track has been around in various forms more or less since Lines came out, and its journey feels telling. He says first started in on it in 2013 or 2014, but only the skeleton of that version (an uncoiling drum machine) remains. Everything else shuffled around it. Things only really locked into place a few years later.
"I did most of the rewriting of the tune and words while I was working in Mumbai in 2016-2017," Lynch says. "Like everyone else, I was processing my emotions after what happened back home in the November 2016 elections. I took a lot of long solo walks around the city in the months that followed, just walking for miles until I was exhausted and dripping with sweat. Most of the time I’d come back to my apartment and spend some time writing a lot of words that ended up in these songs."
Consequently, "Meridian" has an interesting character to it. Like a lot of Lynch's work, it's slow, meandering, unfurling in this discursive way that feels like an ambient piece or a raga. It's peaceful, on the surface – the sort of song you might throw on to fill an empty room on a lazy Sunday morning. But if you listen closely, there's a tension in the song – some of the confusing emotions Lynch describes sneak in. He finds us mired in "a season of dust and smoke," and plays a tenuous, freaked-out sounding solo in the middle of the piece, creating a low hum of anxiety amid the otherwise spacious piece.
It's a confusing message, but a relatable one, balancing an impulse toward stillness with the need for action. Listening to it the morning after another election – one which went slightly "better" but the results of which still fills me with trepidation and fear – it feels like an appropriate soundtrack. It's music to quietly waffle between pessimism and optimism, not sure which one feels right, as if there's ever a right way to feel anyway. Listen to it here and check out the cover art and tracklist of Rat's Spit below in advance of its January release.
Also, if for some reason you don't already have copies of Lynch's old records readily accessible two of his earliest efforts, Mare and Orange You Glad, will make their way to streaming services on 18 January. Mare is, like, one of the best records of the last decade in my mind, so if you've not heard it, please correct that ASAP.
Rat's Spit tracklist:
3. Rat's Spit
5. Peanut Butter
7. Strawberry Cookies
8. Hexagonal Field
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.