Hailing from the New South Wales North Coast, talented multi-instrumentalist Christian Pyle has released his first modern produced solo album ‘Nothing Left to Burn.’ Having been a key part of his own bands Ghost Mountain and Acre, this solo album is a fantastic side-venture into folk territory.
You’d be forgiven for not having heard of Christian Pyle. Nestled up on his own property in the hills beyond Byron Bay and recording the entirety of this album solo, it springs to mind the mythical tale surrounding Bon Iver’s reclusive debut album, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’; but this isn’t the introspective soul-searcher that Bon Iver recorded. ‘Nothing Left to Burn’ is a personal album of family, memory and love lost, all hanging as a backdrop to rollicking folk-rock remiscient of Elliot Smith, Iron & Wine or Conor Oberst. So like I said, you could have been forgiven for not knowing who this guy was when reading the title of this review, but that’s implying a pretty big emphasis on the past tense.
With ‘Nothing Left to Burn,’ Christian Pyle has delivered a great piece of work that by all rights, will stick him firmly blipping away on the radar. From the upbeat pop of ‘Ray of Your Sunshine’ to the incredible down-tempo folk piece ‘Wait Son,’ he’s proved himself a master of all the styles he has to offer. As a songwriter, he has the ability to create lyrical themes which entirely complement the sounds he’s created. The laidback philosophy present in ‘Wait Son’ (“we’re just a borrowed coat trying to fit a stranger’s shoulders, we’re just the branches of a family…it’s just the way things go”) runs alongside lazy guitar lines and brushed drums while the reverb heavy ballad of moving on ‘At A Loss’ plays. At times, it’s these touches of sound evoking a suitable mood that really makes this album stand out.
Thematically, the album takes a snapshot of Pyle’s life, with the obligatory songs of heartbreak and heartache (“I’d fill out the forms until the cows ate my home, I’d pawn-broke my soul just to call you my own”), mingling with a ‘Like a Rolling Stone’-esque fuck you (“the puppets don’t like it when you don’t provide the strings”) and a couple of fantastic familial ventures on ‘Wait, Son’ and ‘School Without Dogs.’ In fact, ‘School Without Dogs’ stands as the most poetic and interesting song on the album, an ode to his family and life growing up. From filling up “hessian bags with horse shit” with his brother, to his sister, who was “always playing Neil Young”, and through to watching his mum’s hands playing Chopin on piano, the album is at its most personal with this track and – at least lyrically – at its best.
The gorgeous, guitar-driven ‘Sun Come Up Each Morning’ and the swaying ‘Sometime in June’ are also great highlights, in contrast with ‘Spaceman’s Funeral,’ a three minute electronic driven instrumental which is completely out of place and does little but weaken an album that is truly special in its entirety. It seems like more of a demonstration of Pyle’s wide-reaching abilities as a multi-instrumentalist than a worthy addition to the album, but leave that to the side, and it’s a really great piece of work.
Christian Pyle’s big achievement with this album isn’t the fact that he recorded all the album’s instruments himself, but the idea that this album comes about after taking some time off from both his other bands Acre and Ghost Mountain to dabble around with this as a side project. If a solo aside can be this good, then that absolutely screams of his qualities as a songwriter. It’s an album that’s come out of some very trying personal times for him with his own bout of cancer and the loss of father hitting in quick succession, so it’s clearly come from a place deep in his heart.
‘Nothing Left to Burn’ is a triumph for Christian Pyle. Whether you’ve heard of him or his band’s before is irrelevant. The fact is that now, he’s cemented himself in a place of reputability and high quality. So have you got an excuse to keep living in Christian Pyle ignorance? Of course you do. But this is an album that doesn’t deserve to be ignored.
‘Nothing Left to Burn’ by Christian Pyle is out now through Vitamin Records.