Oct 17, 2022
By Ben Jardine
What is the opposite of reality? Is it a dream? Or a phantasm of the truth, simply another version of reality, bent and manipulated to suit the trappings of time?
This is the subject matter that Bill Callahan explores on YTI⅃AƎЯ, the singer/songwriter’s latest full-length solo album: his eighth as Callahan, or his nineteenth if we count the Smog records. The follow-up to 2020’s Gold Record, YTI⅃AƎЯ sees Callahan pondering the very fabric of our waking lives, tipping dreams into reality, or at least a version of reality.
Unlike Gold Record, the songs on YTI⅃AƎЯ are less about scenes and characters, and more about direct contemplations of existence. Callahan has ditched story and instead opted for metaphor.
As always, Callahan’s minimal, understated lyrics are at odds with the at times busy instrumentation. Sometimes that friction results in sheer beauty and contemplation. Other times, that dichotomy makes one sink into near-nothingness. But herein is the genius of Callahan: like a jazz musician, he cleverly manipulates ghost notes. And when there aren’t audible notes, instead quiet flourishes, we are drawn in like one might be to a dream. Likewise, Callahan’s lyrics have always had a surreal quality, a humor that befits the bizarre nature of dreams.
“And we’re coming out of dreams/As we’re coming back to dreams,” sings Callahan on the album opener, “First Bird”, and we’re immediately brought into Callahan’s philosophizing. We hear lines such as “dreams are thoughts in lotus,” and we’re onboard to hear what Callahan has to opine next.
“They say never wake a dreamer/Maybe that’s how we die,” sings Callahan on “Coyotes,” and “Planets” is a sparse description of the music planets make as they spin (hint: it’s “Hawaiian”). And album closer “Last One at the Party” really feels so, as if this track is the last one to ascend into that Callahanian dream.
At over an hour in length, the beauty of YTI⅃AƎЯ can drag its feet a little bit, but listeners will find no trouble in surrendering to the world Callahan lets them into. (www.billcallahan.bandcamp.com)
Author rating: 7/10
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