If there’s one thing I’ve grown to admire about Ben Trickey’s songwriting, it’s his use of space. For an artist that often gets lumped in with Americana, his music is uniquely visceral and direct, and yet also remarkably patient. He displays a keen intuition for the significance of the moment — when to go hard-charging into a bridge or chorus, or when to draw back and allow a particular note or phrase to linger in the air.
It’s not surprising, then, that he spends much of his time listening to electronic and ambient music, or that he would be interested in having an artist such as JD Walsh, aka Shy Layers, remix one of his songs for his upcoming EP, The Sound of the Distance. Walsh has a penchant for crafting lush, balmy atmospheres in his work, and while his dreamy Mediterranean rhythms may seem opposed to Trickey’s whiskey-soaked confessionals, the pair share an affinity for creating arrangements that swell and recede like the tides. According to Trickey, the two have known each other for quite some time (“from back in my video art days,” he says), and have managed to stay in touch over the years. So when he had the idea of including a few remixes on his next record, he decided to reach out to Walsh first. “One night we were hanging out and I just asked him to do it and he was into it.”
Taken from his 2016 LP, Choke & Croon, “Chin Up, Kid” is all wry poetry and melancholy piano-blues swing. It’s the sort of song you clutch to your chest — a raw, emotional avowal that leaves you wondering how something can sound so pretty and yet so weary at the same time. In the hands of Shy Layers, however, the track’s elastic grooves are stunted; instead of the original’s latent boozy swagger, the beats here stagger and stumble forward while the vocals fade into distance. It’s a haunting reconstruction — more yearnful, perhaps, than sad, which is just fine by Trickey. “The lyrics are still the lyrics, but the subtle shift in mood when it’s repackaged like this bring out some cool new things,” he says. “It definitely feels very different in a great way.”
For its part, The Sound of the Distance is meant as a companion piece to Choke & Croon. Among the EP’s eight tracks are three remixes and three live cuts, with a cover of Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle” sandwiched in-between. The record is out this Friday, April 14.
Ben Trickey will perform on Sat., April 22 at the Earl in support of Young Antiques and JesusHoney. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $7. 21+ to enter.