From the Black Hills in South Dakota, Ryan Kickland is an artist with a singular vision. He does a neat line in psychedelic folk music and here he presents it in the form of a concept album based on a journey of the natural world.
Throughout, Kickland gives the impression he is a lonesome soul, thousands of miles from the nearest civilisation, save the odd encounter with wild animals (as on ‘Bear Fight’). ‘Natural Eye’ is downright eerie from its low-slung melody to Kickland’s murmuring.
He is clearly no luddite and regularly embelishes his songs with samples of nature or fragments of electronica. It’s different enough to persuade fearers of folk but subtle enough not to scare away the purists. Certainly ‘Out In The Wild’ benefits from a layered approach and the four tracks entitled ‘Observation’ enable him to exploit his thirst for experimental instrumental music. Only for the gruff posturing on ‘Mountain King’ does he misfire but fans of bluesy rockers may consider it a highlight.
For me, his first and last songs are the best contributions. ‘The Valley’ speaks of loneliness and desolation thanks to its filmic atmosphere, a simple guitar figure and Kickland’s heartbroken vocal whilst on ‘A Wide Open Space’, he dispenses with ambient touches completely; instead projecting himself in his most vulnerable form and with spine-tingling results.
‘The Mountain’ is perhaps a few songs too long to make it a great record but there are great moments to behold throughout. Moreover, as I don’t consider myself a great follower of this genre, I was easily won over by the conviction and individuality of Kickland’s performances.
Johnny Cash, Nick Drake