William Ryan Fritch: Emptied Animal
An audacious other side of William Ryan Fritch is introduced on this ten-song EP overture to his upcoming Leave Me Like You Found Me full-length. In contrast to the remarkable instrumental work he's released in the past (much of it under his Vieo Abiungo alias), Emptied Animal is an excursion into sprawling psychedelic-folk of the kind that has more in common with an outfit like Animal Collective than anything Fritch has released before. He's issued a staggering amount of recordings since 2010, among them two under his own name (2010's Music For Honey and Bile for Sufjan Steven's Asthmatic Kitty imprint and 2013's The Waiting Room OST) as well as three Vieo Abiungo full-lengths. There's also a debut release on the horizon from his side project Death Blue Ensemble with drummer Jon Mueller.
That music seems to continually pour out of Fritch is also shown by the content of Emptied Animal. Eschewing the modest three- or four-song presentation of the typical EP, Fritch's comes equipped with five songs accompanied by five alternate treatments (four instrumental versions and one acoustic rendering), and as a bonus, those who purchase the physical album receive four digital exclusives taken from the Leave Me Like You Found Me sessions. To say that the EP contains as much music as a regular album is no exaggeration: the twenty-minute download supplement is the equivalent of a conventional EP, while the physical EP contains forty-nine minutes of music. But it's the music that matters most, and once again Fritch's content-rich material, every sound of which was recorded live in his home studio, overflows with ideas.
The psychedelic splendour of Fritch's soundworld is evident the moment “Late Blooms” embeds his ecstatic vocalizing within a woozy, slow-motion wall-of-sound of strings, saxophone, drums, and percussion. The epic rambunction of the music carries over into “I Am Your Bread,” which is so packed with detail it threatens to drown the listener in sonic overabundance. A little bit of a “Tomorrow Never Knows”-like quality emerges in the EP's sound in such cases. Fritch does provide occasional shelter from the storm, as shown by the lovely woodwinds episode that surfaces midway through “Our Unsettled Shapes” and the lovely vocals-only spotlight that arrives at its end, and such moments are welcome when the EP's sound is so generally dense. “In A Tame World” also refreshes in presenting a comparatively more restrained handling of its content. And anyone nervous about the quality of Fritch's vocalizing can relax. His singing is fine, and his delivery expressive and smooth. In essence, it adds one more powerful instrument to his arsenal.
Having vocal-less versions of the songs on hand makes for an interesting study. To these listener's ears, the songs not only hold up as well but are even more effective in a purely instrumental form—not because Fritch's singing is unappealing but simply because the music is able to breathe a little more with the vocals omitted. Packed as they are with such a diverse mixture of sounds, the instrumentals offer a wealth of stimulation on their own terms. It's telling, too, that the most effective of the three “Late Blooms” versions featured on the release is the acoustic one, simply because its sparse arrangement allows his croon to be heard with the greatest clarity. No matter: the EP offers further indelible proof of Fritch's remarkable gifts and certainly bodes well for the album to come.