Olympic Swimmers Play…Richard Youngs

Right I’ll start here. I heard Olympic Swimmers at Christmas, when they released a song called ‘Where it Snows’: it’s delicate, beautiful and you can’t fail to love it. The first live outing I managed to catch was at Belladrum this August, a jubilant set showcasing tracks from their debut album No Flags will Fly.

After I accosted them at Bella, Simon Liddell from the band shared this suggestion, a sweepingly beautiful track by Richard Youngs.

RICHARD YOUNGS ‘Soon it Will Be Fire’, from the album Sapphie

I first heard Richard Youngs on a sampler CD from Indianna label Jagjaguwar. The track was ‘Soon it Will be Fire’ from the album Sapphie.’

‘I knew very little about him when I first heard his music, and was stunned to discover he was Glasgow based. I’ve rarely heard a record that comes close to this in it’s simplicity and fragile beauty. It’s almost difficult to listen to, as I know I will never be able to record anything that could touch it. Here are the reasons I keep going back to this record…

Simplicity: It’s just acoustic guitar and a vocal. As a musician, it’s a reminder not to overcook arrangements and saturate a song with different parts / instruments. Even his finger picking style is quite sparse (particularly in The Graze of Days), and the silence between notes plays as much of a part as the instrument itself. I read that the guitar he used is a battered old cheap classical. I like the idea that, to record an album, you would choose an instrument based on sentimentality, rather than tone (although to my ears, it sounds great anyway).

His voice: One of the most mournful, somewhere between Mark Kozelek and Efrim Menuck. The album was recorded in a flat, but the vocals are drenched in reverb throughout, sitting on top of the dry guitar. The most beautiful moments of the record occur when his voice cracks.

The songs last for ages! 3 tracks, 37 minutes…’

Olympic Swimmers released their debut album ‘No Flags will Fly’ earlier this year. The ten tracks are melodic, well crafted and filled with seraphic sounds, fronted by Susie Smillie’s unique vocal. Amongst them are the upbeat ‘Knots’, echoing ‘Apples and Pears’ and triumphant, choral closer ‘Mt Noah’.

Watch ‘Father Said’ at Belladrum…

and I know it’s not winter just yet, but the video for ‘Where it Snows’ makes pretty cool viewing at any time…

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