Band of the Day

2015.02.15

William Ryan Fritch

A DIY craftsman of an ornate world of experiential sounds
You must force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve you long after they are gone, and to hold on when there is nothing in you except for your will saying 'hold on!'
lyrics from Imposters

Human beings exist in a constant state of redefining themselves. We are different things to different people in different moments, nurturing new relationships while old ones fade away. We change careers five to seven times, and have four to seven sexual partners. We regenerate our skin cells every week and our skeletons every decade. Even on a cellular level, we are always revising our role as the protagonists in our own stories. Yet, life does not exist on a narrative arc, and we must rewrite our own story every day to account for the constant coincidences and curveballs we must navigate. William Ryan Fritch is all too aware of this fact. You see, Fritch is a composer, but he isn't comfortable with that term. He has little in common with most contemporary composers. Most ambient, minimalist, and modern classical music leaves him wanting, and he's clueless when it comes to that electro-acoustic shtick, though he is often grouped into that category. Until a few years ago, he couldn't read a lick of music. He still has nightmares about having to sight-read a piece of music in front of an audience, pants or no pants. As such, if you sat Fritch in a room with just a pen and music staff paper, he may not be able to create anything worth a damn, but if you gave him a room of trash and a tape recorder, he could make it all sing together. Much of his style and sound stems from avoiding having to learn how to notate for and integrate others into his music, either because he was too broke or too dense to do so. As a product of that environment, he has honed his skills as a DIY cultivator of sound relationships, more of an aspiring apothecary or experiential producer than a composer in the traditional sense. Every musical idea, melody, rhythm or gesture he makes is responsive to something he hears in the physical world, using his intuition to feel how sound elements are reacting together. With little to compare, it's difficult to put Fritch's aesthetic into a box. He has had to contextualize himself as a composer so that he could be taken seriously, but he is no architect. He is a homesteader, a laborer who doesn't have the base skills, patience or willingness to manufacture someone else's plans, yet feels a deep, unrelenting desire to build things with only himself and his modest skills to rely on. He employs no virtual instruments, plugins, or libraries, just a bunch of raggedy, second-hand instruments he constantly recontextualizes in his studio, the compositional content of every piece flowing from the originating sound itself. The pieces don't exist separate from the arrangements; they are the arrangements. "Our physical laws do not in fact generate anything. They serve only to describe regularities and consistent relationships in nature. I embrace the notion of there being no immutable truth, that in its absence is an endlessly nuanced and novel experiential universe which—by eclipsing our feeble processing—leaves us innervated, enthusiastic of our unknowing." – WRF The Fritch narrative only becomes more complex from there. Pushing his own boundaries, his music has evolved to include many collaborators as well as the inclusion of his own voice among the beautiful trash at his disposal. Those of us who know Fritch from his explosive, emotive instrumental music will be startled by his fragile, supple voice, which glides and undulates over the compositions with quiet confidence, adding another compelling dimension to his ornate sound world. Following his work with Sole and the Skyrider Band, as well as his recent collaboration with Volcano Choir drummer Jon Mueller under the name of Death Blues, Fritch called on the likes of Benoit Pioulard, D.M. Stith, Origamibiro and Esme Patterson to help realise his latest album, Revisionist. These inspired partnerships take Fritch's instrumentation and craft to new destinations, employing new techniques while furthering its immediacy and appeal. The cover art of João Ruas reflects the album's theme. It's a depiction of the Greek character Arachne, a great weaver that was so overconfident in her abilities that she proposed that she could weave more beautifully than the gods themselves, leading to a contest with Athena. The myth then historically splits into two tellings: one where Arachne wins, but her hubris is punished by Athena, who shreds the tapestry and turns her into a spider so that she and her descendants would have to weave for all time with their insignificant threads, and another where Arachne loses, and is forbidden from touching a loom or needle ever again, in which case Athena turning her into a spider would be seen as an act of pity. In many ways, the revising of a myth can says more about the ethos of particular time than the myth itself. The first rendition of the myth shows a fallible yet vengeful god, human skillfulness and beauty that can exceed the beauty and splendor of nature or gods, and the lowliness of non-human animals. This suggests that it reflected the values of a humanist culture, whereas the second version of the myth that emerged hundreds of years later depicts an infallible, merciful and omnipotent god, boastful yet inferior human ability, and the splendor of the natural order/animal world. It's a far more pious and indebted worldview. "The record explores the psychology of revisionism and its impact on how we personally and collectively frame and brand life events in our diegetic history to make for more retroactive continuity, manifesting both as denial and as critical re-examination. We forget evil, distort those aspects of history we find uncomfort- able. If we can skim or paper over uncomfortable truths, we will, and those who tell the stories also hold the power." – WRF It remains to be seen how Revisionist will be received now, or remembered decades from now. What is certain is that Revisionist will still be relevant. It's an album that will grow and change with you, music for the ecstatic moments of transition and quiet catharsis. However one desires to classify Fritch's style, his skill as a shaper of sound speaks for itself. It's craftsmanship built to last.