From the first wave of symphonic keyboards to the last utterance of good advice FROM some accidental RF, From A Late Night High-Rise is a masterful rumination on mortality and morality. It's an epic to behold.
Matthew Ryan has wandered around the edges for years now. Originally perceived as an alt-country troubadour, Ryan has slowly made his case for a more adventurous and cinematic American Singer/Songwriter. You get the feeling he doesn't care much for anything that resembles a hollow victory. He's clearly chosen the hard way. From major labels to small labels to indie labels to DIY and back again; he continues to follow some stubborn compass that keeps him quietly searching for his version of perfect weather in a song. All the while amassing a loyal following, a growing resume of film and television placements and a mountain of critical acclaim.
From A Late Night High-Rise is a movie without film, it's a novel without a book. It's absolutely beautiful, precise and unflinching. It's music that glows like a city from high up in an airplane- first appearing alien, then blooming completely human. Shaken by the sentencing of his brother to 30 years in prison and the death of a dear friend, Ryan took to recording and writing songs on his Korg D16 Porta Studio to cope with his grief. "Follow The Leader","Gone for Good", "Love Is The Silencer","Victory Waltz" and "The Complete Family" were all recorded at home. Those recordings were the seeds that would become From A Late Night High-Rise.
Eventually, Ryan took what he had to Neilson Hubbard's studio. At the time, Ryan and Hubbard were compatriots in a side-project called Strays Don't Sleep. It was there that Ryan and Hubbard sculpted and fine-tuned the sonic emotionalism that implores From A Late Night High-Rise into such a cohesive thread. Other members of Strays Don't Sleep came in from to time to contribute as well - Brian Bequette offered some of his signature distorted beauty on guitar, while Steve Latanation and Billy Mercer (Strays Don't Sleep's rhythm section) brought their rock and rumble to tracks that begged for something a bit more desperate (most notably: "Misundercould" and "Love Is The Silencer"). Ryan recruited Kate York to be the heroine to speak; she had contributed beautifully to the Ryan penned and sung Strays Don't Sleep underground hit "For Blue Skies." Since these songs were of the same cloth, Ryan wanted York to play the female lead again. And York's voice delivers here with an ease and resonance that is masterful.
In many ways From A Late Night High-Rise is a song cycle, or dare I say, a concept record. But like all great stories it blurs around the edges and deals in an intimate universality that allows for interpretation. The "I" and the "You" in these songs become anyone, maybe even everyone. It goes from bravely autobiographical (particularly in the spoken word cinema of "The Complete Family"), to beautifully impressionistic ("Everybody Always Leaves") without ever interrupting its flow. Even a cover of Grant McClennan and Steven Kilby's sublime "Providence" eases by like a sibling to Ryan's compositions. All the more amazing is how the music forms an arc along with the story. From lush, precise arrangements to DIY utilitarianism, nothing interrupts the story.
It's impossible to distill such a cohesive rumination on mortality and morality for you. Give From A Late Night High-Rise a focused listen. Let it wash over you, follow the story like you would a great movie's plot, and be surprised by the hard-won beauty and optimism that the ending offers.