When Ryley Walker lifted the demarcation line between jazz and folk with his CD "Primrose Green" last year, it was not only the experts who listened. There came a young Schlaks across the pond, who seemed more like a Eurorail tourist with a backpack and a travelling guitar than a visionary who uncovers the hidden synapses of global musical memory.
While "Primrose Green" was wild and spontaneous, Walker's new CD is the exact opposite. The whole album looks like a single long track. Walker floats on a kind of modal stream of consciousness for which he only needs extremely few tones. "Golden Sings That Have Been Sung" is a continuation and antithesis to "Primrose Green" with its free jazz improvisations and Celtic guitar drones. Walker is shy, his body is usually slightly bent, the pupils in his eyeballs always swing from right to left and back so that nothing escapes them from their surroundings. Last year, the 27-year-old still seemed to be searching with all his sensors. At least musically he found what he was looking for in 2016. "The drones and the rhythmic pulse of Alice Coltrane were an important influence on me," Walker recapitulates in a mixture of pride and exhaustion. "Even their open space. I can drift in this space. Not just me, but all the other musicians. For me this combination of modal jazz and folky drones is normal, but I am surprised that so many people feel the same way. It seems to be in the air somehow."
Sometimes you have to travel to the past to meet the future. The Chicagoer deliberately took this step. From the blue note approach of his last record, he deliberately developed into the aesthetic of the Impulse! label (see box). From a historical point of view, this is imperative, because Impulse! was an innovative leader in the mid-sixties and led jazz into the hippie era. But for a young artist of today, this step is anything but compelling, although from the other end of the spectrum it is the same metamorphosis that a Flying Lotus performs. "The release of records usually takes place with a time lag to our artistic impulses. When Primrose Green came out, I was a lot further in the head. We were constantly on tour and I wrote new songs. I wanted to make a new record right away. I didn't even have a concrete idea, just knew that I wanted to be slower and have more space. During this time I listened to a lot of Mark Hollis, quiet, relaxed music that takes an infinite amount of time. When I became aware of this, the sound of the new record became more concrete. My friend Leroy Bach [formerly Wilco; Note] helped me as a producer. So there was always a voice outside me that put me back on my track."