Julian Lynch is an academic, a longtime PhD student in ethnomusicology, and unfortunately, his music displays the unwelcome traits expected in music borne of over-thinking: rigid, overtly meticulous, and far too concerned with pointing to outside influences. On Lines, Lynch continues to lurk on the folkier, more hushed side of contemporary indie music. As with his previous album, Terra, he steadily burrows deeper into an aesthetic vein spawned from what seems like an infatuation with Jim O’ Rourke’s work, especially The Visitor. The album’s songs, while at times trailing off in more fascinating directions, all branch from homespun guitar music, sounding like every sappy, texture-driven indie act you’ve ever heard. These songs reside in places much too comfortable to be remarkable, hinting at a vague romanticism for, seemingly, nothing in particular.
Lynch’s more adventurous efforts simply don’t go far enough: The mélange of tribal drumming and brittle, cooing horns on “Going” comes off like faux world music, while the splashes of shadowy jazz fusion on “Carlos Kellyi I” are fleeting and underwhelming (it’s as if the pernicious howls of Miles Davis’s Agharta were playing somewhere deep in the background, having found their way onto the recording by mere accident). “Onions” is a bouncy prog-rock ramshackle of squeaky guitars and horrendous singing that fluctuates from goofy to embarrassing.
The root of the album’s failings lies in Lynch’s failure to take risks. There’s no experimentation apart from meek bouts of sonic playfulness, and regrettably, the volume of Lynch’s micro-abstractions are pitched too far down in the mix to make much of an impact. Hesitancy and timidity are the album’s loudest, most pronounced features, and after several listens, you’re left with the impression that you’ve been beaten over the head with a pillowcase full of agreeableness. Lynch isn’t short on ideas or inspiration, nor the means to express them; rather, there’s a block in the lines of communication between his mind and his tools.