On the banks of the mighty Mississippi, lapping on the shores comes a similar sunglass-toting self-described wrangler. Far taller than the Frenchman, Ryan Olson and his collection of immaculate white suits have, in mere months, mirrored the mastery of Minnesota funk and R&B. As the story goes, Prince appeared at the Relayted record releases shows at First Avenue with guitar in tow. He tuned, stood, and listened before commenting, “Looks like they’ve got it under control,” and did not step into the glowing gels. What mystical artistic creation could leave the legendary Minneapolis muse hushed?
In brief, Gayngs is a collective of some of the finest Midwestern musicians including P.O.S., Dessa, Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce of Bon Iver, Michael Lewis of Andrew Bird, and others to make up the over 23-member supergroup. The album overall evoked the following responses once played in a friend’s store in Paris during an summer afternoon. Males called him a pervert. Females called it “the most sexual music” they had ever heard.
“The Gaudy Side of Town” leads the magnum opus, as well as their thus-performed The Last Prom on Earth concert dates, with Solid Gold‘s Zach Coulter’s vocals bend back to the 1970s and 80s night movie scenes; the kind with wafting smooth smoke rising from the heat of the streets. Michael Lewis’ soprano sax sets the mood as Justin Vernon’s backing voice floats the otherwise slow funk above the neon red glow of the streets below. This deliberately slow, persistent soul endures through and through at 69 beats per minute.
|Ryan Olson, photo by Graham Tolbert|
The follow-up, “The Walker,” is radically different, almost serving as a buffer before the Godley & Creme cover “Cry.” “You don’t know how to ease my pain,” is airy even without the high chorused notes. Imagine it as the musical equivalent of wearing pink or purple clothes. You’re mature and confident enough just to turn that volume dial up, lean back and sip scotch in a dimly lit room until Jake Luck’s organ completes the transition into “No Sweat.” Upon the last measure fading in your ears does the album begin to resonate. Stefon Alexander, aka P.O.S., is bound far from his angry screams and rhymes, restrained and crooning on those aforementioned damp city streets. The mastermind pulled from this and Dessa their most memorable performances of the year. “Faded High” fails to betray the fact that Dessa had never heard the music prior to recording her vocals, given only lyrics. The electronic beat underneath reminds more of isolation and Metroid. Meanwhile the transient vocal duties generate one of the more beautiful harmonies.
The highlights of Relayted include “Crystal Rope” and “Ride.” As a bassist, the lines of “Crystal Rope” provide the best example of how bass guitar can add emphasis and heady funk. Meanwhile “Ride”‘s keys from Phillip Fucking Cook and Maggie Morrison’s wurlitzer urgently pulsate to independently indifferent, floating vocals. It is the song that cradles your head, whispers in your ears, and puts you down into the one thousand thread count sheets of “The Last Prom on Earth.” The finale couples Ivan Howard and Justin Vernon on a dance so slow it would unite any Andie Walsh with any Blane McDonough.
Relayted redefines recording as well as refines the record. The ardor of confidence exuded by Ryan Olson persuaded dozens of musicians to span state lines better than any mixture Jean-Baptiste Grenouille could conceive. Laid out before you are psychedelic mesmerizing moments akin to the bridge in Pink Floyd’s “Dogs,” tenor and baritones entwined vocals, and a lonesome urban Edward Hopper guitar. Gayngs’ Relayted may very well be the first full-length ever to make your significant other jealous and raptured simultaneously.