There is a spectral openness chipping away at the edges of William Tyler & Marisa Anderson’s debut collaborative record, Lost Futures. The respective Nashville and Portland-based guitarists flirt with the hauntological implications of our current, twenty-first century climate throughout eight demanding yet spacious tracks of downright beautiful guitar picking. The title, ripped from Mark Fisher’s concept of once inevitable, now impossible futures, imbues the compositions with a sobering sense of failure; a brilliant imagination tainted by experience. Broadly, this is a record about mourning a lost optimism for future possibilities, delivered through a cinematic, crystalline detail usually reserved for more triumphant occasions. It opens up a world of quiet devastation.
The record opens where we’ve seen both Tyler and Anderson before, out in the open country roads of America, crafting a spare, opening motif fit for a Wim Wenders soundtrack. “News About Heaven” maintains the delicate unfurling of Tyler’s last two solo records, but with an abridged purposiveness. On the following titular track, Anderson’s comparatively scruffy style provides a more distinct direction for the song to take, pushing out introspective rambling for momentous action. While themes are often circled back to, the compositions keep ascending toward seemingly impossible heights– and then they just end. Those hopeful, alternate futures become increasingly realized as the music gallops along like a horse about to run off a cliff.
“Something Will Come” best presents this unnerving crawl towards ever-disappearing options. It’s a rare moment where Anderson and Tyler do away with melody entirely, focusing instead on clanging their way into the ether through aggressive eighth-note droning. On a record filled with such initially picturesque, pastoral scenery, there is a genuine menace to the track. The following centerpiece “At The Edge of the World” takes this propulsive undercurrent less literally, employing Gisela Rodriguez Fernandez’s trilling strings and Patricia Vázquez Gómez’s quijada on a Cumbia-inspired rhythm. The loss of opportunity, of hope, of potential, starts to pivot towards an unanswered yet impressionable question: perhaps there are other good futures to still anticipate?
The rest of the record cruxes on an indeterminate mood between beauty and hesitance. While hauntology has been applied towards The Caretaker and Burial as a degradation of anticipated futures through sonic self-immolation, Tyler & Anderson comment on our current worldly expectations through contrasting tones that ebb and flow and rub up against each other, unsure of which path to take. This comes to a standstill on the final track, “Haunted By Water,” where two riffs in starkly different tempos fight each other to be the last remaining statement. Indecision threatens to eat away any remaining sanctity of possibility, but Tyler and Anderson ultimately cave to their optimistic impulses. Lost Futures ends on a squarely hopeful note of resolution that either undermines or recontextualizes all of the paradise-lost melancholia before it. Indeed, we are haunted by lost futures, but maybe revitalized by a new acknowledgement of their past existence. (Josh Hughes)