WILLIAM TYLER – ” New Vanitas “

Posted: January 2, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , ,

William Tyler is a Nashville guitarist and composer. He spent years woodshedding and touring with Nashville groups like Lambchop and Silver Jews before breaking away to focus on his own version of instrumental guitar music. The concept of “vanitas” in medieval art refers to the juxtaposition of macabre symbols of death with material ephemera in order to illustrate the impermanence of earthly things. What struck me about this was not the representation of death in a macabre/morbid way, but rather that very sense of ephemerality and impermanence. Reading an article about the history of ephemera in art led me to the concept of vanitas, and I wanted to find a way to pivot that in a more, well, hopeful direction. But these paintings force us to bear witness to the contrasts of life, death, and impermanence, and if 2020 has taught me about anything, it is this concept of “bearing witness” both on a personal and political level.


If you don’t know William Tyler you really should by now. He’s been around for a bit and has been releasing solo work for a decade. This was his second effort of the year and this seven-song set is out there. The record is all about life and death and how they are separate but also one continuous thing. On the opening track “With News From Heaven” Tyler loops chords, riffs, and sonic scapes from his guitar over one another and as they brightly jangle around one another they bring the listener into a new realm that will take them through the rest of the record. There are weird radio broadcasts on a number of songs that fade in and out, which truly make you feel like you may not be on this planet anymore even though it’s clearly a familiar signal you’re hearing.

The sprawling 12-minute epic “Slow Night’s Static” is a guitar that drones in and out of focus as more of these distorted radio signal broadcasts are just out of reach of your ear behind the guitar. It’s hypnotic, beautiful, and like nothing, William Tyler has done before. This serene track must be that feeling of literally being between life and death, just waves of ease washing over you. He leaves us with “Pisces Backroads”, another euphoric track that feels hymnal and ends on a high note. As the record ends you might feel like you have reached a spiritual awakening or wonder where you just travelled to over the last 39 minutes.

Released September 4th, 2020

Recorded and produced by William Tyler except “Four Corners” by Scott Hirsch

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