When: Thu., Aug. 25, 9 p.m. 2016
On his gorgeous new album Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Dead Oceans) Ryley Walker moves deeper into his own sound, capturing something of the powerful metamorphosis that accompanies his electric performances. Artists like John Martyn and Tim Hardin remain his touchstones, but the Rockford native has pushed his cosmic, probing psych-folk into the present, with elliptical lyrics that match the simmering curiosity of his instrumental explorations. The new record was made with multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach, and if I have one issue it’s that the sound they conjure tempers what Walker and his excellent band—particularly guitarist Brian Sulpizio, keyboardist Ben Boye, and bassist Anton Hatwich—achieve live. Onstage his elastic songs are stretched and reshaped by increasingly adventurous improvisation, but here most of them keep their cool. (Of course, if the band presented the live manifestations of the record’s eight songs there would only be room for half of them.) Imbued with new coloration and emotional gradations, Walker’s singing makes another huge leap as he explores his own elusiveness on a track like the remarkable “Funny Thing She Said to Me.” That stunning ballad has the same kind of slow-motion impact as Richard Thompson’s “Calvary Cross,” as Walker’s narrator gets dressed down by a lover who can’t resist his charms but also knows he’s unreliable. Sulpizio’s exploratory lines and the elegant chords traced by Boye and Hatwich feel like they could cycle for an eternity without ever becoming tired. Golden Sings is another knockout of fluid and exquisite arrangements, but the scary part for me is that Walker hasn’t come close to hitting his artistic ceiling—it’s as if his transformation has been mapped with stop-motion animation.