Some pairings are so natural that when you see the names or the words together, you know it’s going to work. Such is the combo of William Tyler and Luke Schneider. Schneider’s played on several of Tyler’s solo records and those tunes have always stood out. On Understand, the two go astral.
Recorded during lockdown last year, Understand is dripping with melancholic soul even as it tries to hold off the growing shadows. “Memory Garden” starts off with ebullient synth arpeggios and sweeping guitar solos, soaked in sugar and light. Tyler and Schneider weave back and forth, twin phoenixes drifting too close to the sun. Halfway through, the air is sucked from the room, and reality sets in with suffocating drones taking over. The effervescence still flickers in the distance, trying to reassert itself against all odds, but ultimately drift back into a lost dreamscape.
Emotions run high throughout Understand, the duo looking for answers in a world where few exist. Dripping from “The Witness Tree” is a determination. A slow, methodic rhythm pounds out footsteps pacing in circles, adrift in contemplation and anxious to find any ounce of hope possible. Tyler’s loping guitar passages are hypnotic, shimmering like prismatic light hovering above the sea and destined for a higher spot in the atmosphere.
The shortest song on Understand is the most potent. Closer “The Going Through” is filled with grief and longing. Banjo plucks are memories of better times just out of reach, Schneider’s moving melody a tenuous branch stretching toward those moments, knowing they’re impossible to reach. Obscured voices are an afterthought, ancestral tendrils that push us forward and remind us that looking back for too long only paralyzes us enough to be passed by.
“The Going Through” strays from the path, transient lapsteel unmoored and contemplating how to move on with such a heavy heart. Finally finding connection with kindred spirits and close friends, we pack up, we point our compass north, and embrace a new kind of understanding. Tyler and Schneider go cosmic and still end up pleasantly tethered to the ground. Within the ephemera, we hold grace for one another and, at long last, can rest.
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