Release Date: Jan 29, 2016
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
What does a song look like? Not on the page, in the squiggle speak privy only to conservatory cousins and Eric from Music Theory 101, who played violin in Coal Chamber tees, smiling. What does a song look like when it’s being a song? Songs are alphabet, if music is language. Songs are melody and harmony, bricks of distinct, fixed pitch that interact, hug.
Your Friend’s debut EP Jekyll/Hyde cut through a lot of the world’s noise with a showcase for Taryn Miller’s voice and her minimalist, mysterious yet piercing songs. Listening to that EP’s six songs, at first it was mainly an overwhelming atmosphere that made an impression, yet that atmosphere was built up through a seeming minimum of pieces: her soaring voice, some spellbinding guitar, drums that occasionally pummeled their way in, a general feeling of midnight in isolation. Listening put me in the mindset of being alone in an old house in the middle of nowhere, which very well might be the setting for the recording process itself.
You know that feeling where you spend too much time with yourself? Taryn Miller of Lawrence, Kansas, is only too familiar with it, but has used the time as inspiration for her début album as Domino artist Your Friend. Gumption is the result of long and intense periods of solitude where – if the results are anything to go by – Miller completely lost herself in the music, down to every intricate lyrical and melodic detail, while forensically dissecting relationships with herself and other people. Yet the album does not sound too calculated, and for that we can partially thank producer Nicolas Vernhes.
Under the name Your Friend, Kansas native Taryn Miller weaves ambient spells that are alternately as wide as the great plains and as hazy as a shuttered bedroom in a July heat wave. She first introduced Your Friend's soundscapes in 2013 with the six-song home-recorded Jekyll/Hyde EP, which, in comparison to this debut LP, is the more straightforward of her two releases. Languid and dreamy as that EP was, it still presented Miller as a shadowy balladeer, picking distant guitar rhythms against an ebbing tide of slow pulse drum beats that often built to cathartic peaks.
In our recent interview with Taryn Miller, the talented musician behind the Your Friend moniker describes panicking when asked what kind of music she makes. Luckily, a friend stepped in at her behest: “It’s like ambient folk, but she has this appreciation for the avant-garde and tries to incorporate it when she can. ” Both Miller’s anxiety at the question and her friend’s response reveal a lot about Gumption, the Your Friend debut.
Without knowing the process behind Taryn Miller, aka Your Friend’s, ‘Gumpton’ it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it is about this collection of ever-shifting electronica that’s so intriguing. Composed largely from found sounds collected with a field recorder on her family farm in Kansas before being twisted and mangled in the studio, ‘Gumpton’ is a laid bare display of everything that makes up Your Friend as a person, obscured by layer upon layer of otherworldliness. Crafted with an acute eye for drones and loops, it’s in the production (by Nicolas Vernhes of The War On Drugs and Deerhunter fame) and in the mixture of real life and synthesised sounds that ‘Gumpton’ finds its strengths.
New Domino find Taryn Miller is slightly androgynous of look and sometimes of voice, and her sparse and dignified textures have something of the feel of 4AD to them. They germinate from drone loops influenced by Kranky’s roster, but disguise this underneath crestfallen songcraft. The Kansas-based singer’s intonations keen over funereal waves of splashing cymbals, lurching samples and slowly riffing or effects-laden guitar, peaking on standout Nothing Moved.
While it may be silly to harp on a band name — so many are trite, coy, or altogether irrelevant — few seem to fit the music to which they’ve been applied as well as Your Friend suits Taryn Miller. “Gumption,” the Lawrence, Kan., artist’s immensely accomplished debut album, places her firmly in the avant-pop traditions of Bjork, Stereolab, and Kate Bush. With somnolent tempos and vaporous melodies, Miller declares that Your Friend is in it for the long haul, here for you in good times and bad.
?Ethereal might be the most overused word in the music critic’s lexicon, but it’s hard to describe the sound of Your Friend, the moniker of musician Taryn Miller, as anything else. Gumption, her first full-length, is more expressionistic than her Jekyll/Hyde EP, but also richer in many ways. Nothing here is wasted, as every lingering note or movement across the fretboard, adds something to the tapestry.? On Gumption, Miller teamed with Nicolas Vernhes, a talented French producer who helped engineer and mix parts of The War On Drugs' seminal Lost in the Dream, and while Miller's tunes operate in a much more macabre color palette, there's a pleasing texture to much of the album that's clearly influenced by Vernhes.