William Ryan Fritch: New Words For Old Wounds
Being the final installment in an eleven-album subscription series, New Words For Old Wounds caps an incredible period of productivity for William Ryan Fritch. From some future vantage point, the release may come to be seen as both a culmination, the composer and multi-instrumentalist taking stock of the ground thus far covered, and as something of a slate-cleaning. The soundworld presented on the recording won't be unfamiliar to those already exposed to his work. Said soundworld appears here, however, in slightly expanded form in featuring vocal contributions by DM Stith, Powerdove (Annie Lewandowski), and Ceschi (Ramos) alongside the expansive sonic palette generated by Fritch.
That he has managed to release music of such consistently high quality at such a pace is remarkable, especially when the elaborate production design of a typical Fritch composition is considered. To state that the twelve tracks on New Words for Old Wounds aren't skeletal vocal-and-acoustic guitar affairs is a huge understatement; in a typical track, layers of lead and background vocals resound alongside a mini-orchestra of drums, guitars, strings, woodwinds, keyboards, and percussion (all of it performed by the composer). Pinning Fritch down to a single style isn't easy, but one might describe his music as dense, hallucinatory indie-folk whose semi-ecstatic energy level is so powerful it can barely be contained.
With DM Stith aboard, “Awake” inaugurates the album on an uproarious, almost bombastic note; their later collaboration “After” is a darker folk-blues affair that feels as if it's risen from some blackened Southern swamp. Fritch's impassioned vocal delivery imbues “Entirety” with a sense of desperation; “The Little We Know,” on the other hand, sees him bemoaning all-too-human hubris and ignorance. He's often demonstrated a soft spot for slow, curdling tempos, and there are more than a few songs here that unspool at a loping pace; “Floats By,” for instance, lumbers woozily in almost drunken manner with Fritch's vocal augmented by Powerdove's. Breaking up the vocal tracks are instrumentals such as “Conflicted” and “Vantage Point” that remind one of his exceptional proficiency as a multi-instrumentalist.
Par for the Lost Tribe Sound course, the release impresses on visual grounds, too. Though New Words for Old Wounds initially was conceived as a digital release only, as it developed it became clear that a more elaborate presentation would be appropriate. Two deluxe CD editions have been prepared, one a handcrafted, side-stitched hardcover book containing bound pages of lyrics and pen-and-ink renderings (twenty-five copies) and the other a slightly more modest version that includes a panoramic gatefold housing for the disc and lyrics sheet (250 copies). Fritch is a lucky man indeed for having had his releases presented by the label in so flattering a manner.