Album review: Willard Grant Conspiracy – Untethered

Untethered is the tenth album from Willard Grant Conspiracy, released after the passing of lead sing

Untethered is the tenth album from Willard Grant Conspiracy, released after the passing of lead singer Robert Fisher. - Credit: Archant

WGC’s central force bows out with a moving, cerebral set of alt-country fitting of his legacy.

Untethered is the 10th and final studio album from this underground but highly influential band, following the death of its lead singer, guiding force and only permanent member Robert Fisher in February 2017.

All of the recordings were made before he passed, but the tapes were only recently dusted down and brought to life with care and attention by Fisher’s long-time compadre and violist David Michael Curry, whose deft work features heavily across these 14 songs.

Fisher attacks opener Hideous Beast with suitably depraved relish, recalling Nick Cave in Grinderman mode – but the rest of the set deals in cerebral, opaque lyricism and considered, accomplished alt-folk.

There’s dream-laced poetics in Let The Storm Be Your Pilot (“The sun shines down on nothing new”) while the carefully finger-picked, insular All We Have Left delivers its sense of loss in long, lamenting violin strokes so intimate it feels almost impertinent to listen.

Fisher rarely lets his voice get above a gently mournful coo, so the rousing six-minute I Could Not marks itself out with its bluesy howl of crushed ambition (or delusion).

The title track is the only one written in the months between his diagnosis with cancer and his death; a dusty, slow-paced waltz of quivering and swooning violas, glowing Spanish guitar embers and warm, finger-picked acoustic guitar. Fisher sings in his familiar, unembellished style, of sidestepping his way “into the path of a hurricane / First time in my life I felt untethered”.

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As the fulcrum of enviably creative, truly collaborative alt-country for more than two decades, Fisher leaves a farewell that will be keenly felt.

Rating: 4/5 stars