The second entry in Lost Tribe Sounds’ new Dead West Series comes from the label’s most well-known artist. Ill Tides is a return to the purely instrumental for William Ryan Fritch, and we couldn’t be happier. Fritch is one of a small handful of artists with a signature sound, first made apparent on “Recoiled” ~ a huge swell of strings bursting from a thick, emotive backdrop, accompanied by slow drums crashing on the sonic shore. But the fact that this is the album’s second song leads us to believe that Fritch is continuing to evolve, experimenting with different timbres and approaches.
If Seabuckthorn’s I Could See the Smoke (the first tape in the Dead West Series) is a fire album, then Ill Tides is an album of the sea. The irony is that the word “sea” is in the first artist’s name, while the Ill Tides cover suggests an arid archaeological dig. But “ill tides” also suggest something turning south ~ a crowd shifting from anticipation to anger, a gust turning into a gale. The slow march of the drums, especially apparent on “Burdensome”, implies inevitability. Whatever this is, it can’t be stopped. Yet in the meantime, there’s still time, however fleeting, to note the beauty of the moment. The sun glistens on the water, the bow cuts through the chop. Will these moments be squandered, unnoticed, lost?
In “A Tense Spiral”, one can imagine a flag being hoisted by chain as a swarm of bees descends on the crew, a dark augur. In the midst, a low, wordless song rises like the hum of rowers at their posts. Into the storm they go: one fate is as good as any other, and this is the fate they know. Could it have been any different, or have they been rowing in this direction their whole lives? As the album heads toward the “Furthest Shore”, the strings sadden, the skies darken, the drums die, but the waves keep rolling forward, relentless and impassive as they head for destinations of their own. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 21 October