Black Mountain, Ryley Walker
started burning down Norwegian churches. And yet, until just two short years
ago, McBean had lived his entire adolescence and adult life without a proper
driver’s license, that first and most coveted ticket to personal independence.
Black Mountain’s new album, Destroyer, is imbued with all that wild-ass freedom
and newfound agency (and anxiety and fear) that comes with one's first time
behind the wheel.
Destroyer, named after the discontinued single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle
car, is structured around the feeling of driving a hot rod. The album exists in the
middle of the early-to-mid 80s Los Angeles war between punk and hair metal - it’s
exhilarating, spirited, and dangerous. Throughout, youthful themes run rampant:
“Boogie Lover” cruises down the Sunset Strip, “Horns Arising” is a fill-up at a
desert gas station just in time to see a UFO hovering near a mesa, and “High Rise”
rounds out a sense of teenage discovery.
To create Destroyer, McBean shacked himself up in his rehearsal space and
invited over friends from the endless rock’n’roll highway, bringing to life 22 songs.
While some were laid back into shallow graves to dig up once again at a later
date, the others were left above ground and polished and given life, some
transformed by longtime band member Jeremy Schmidt. This generation of Black
Mountain also sees new members Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun) and Adam
Bulgasem (Dommengang & Soft Kill) as well as familiar collaborators Kliph
Scurlock (Flaming Lips), Kid Millions (Oneida) and John Congleton (St. Vincent,
Swans). Collectively, there’s a renewed vitality to Black Mountain on Destroyer —
a seasoned, veteran of heady hard rock that’s found new, young muscles to flex
and roads to explore.
Deafman Glance, the follow-up to 2016’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, is the second Ryley Walker album produced by LeRoy Bach and Walker himself. It was largely recorded at the Minbal Studios in Chicago, with some later sessions taking place at USA Studios and in LeRoy’s kitchen. Ryley plays electric & acoustic guitars and was joined by long-time 6-string sparring partners, Brian J Sulpizio and Bill Mackay, who both play electric.
“I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn’t want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally. I was always trying to make something like this I guess, trying to catch up with my imagination. And I think I succeeded in that way — it’s got some weird instrumentation on there, and some surreal far-out words.
The last record was cool but I was still figuring out what I was good at. But I’m fucking 28 years old, I’ve got to figure out a sound, figure out something that I enjoy doing. So this record is a little bit more grown up. Ol’Ryley’s just workin’ on bein’ a better Ryley.
I think more than anything the thing to take away from this record is that I appreciate what improv and jamming and that outlook on music has done for me, but I wanted rigid structure for these songs. I don’t want to expand upon them live. There’s a looseness to some of the songs I guess, but I didn’t want to rely on just hanging out on one note. It’s so straight-forward that I can see a lot of people really not liking it to be honest. But I’m so happy, I’m happy that it’s completely different and unexpected.”