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Ryland Bouchard

For a long time, I kept a tiny space in a corner of my mind, a dusty little corner, cramped but devoted, for the music of Ryland Bouchard. This corner fit him perfectly. At the time, he went by “The Robot Ate Me”, and his songs were like taking out and opening an old, dusty trunk in the attic of an old aunt on some boring, but marvelous, Sunday afternoon. Songs with the sounds of an old transistor radio, crackling gramophones, a music box, and a fragile and touching voice–like that of a doll that you left too long among the dust and forgot about.

I had kept a place for Ryland, waiting for the opportunity to do something with him. This opportunity presented itself in the middle of winter. He was playing at Mains d’Oeuvres at the beginning of January. New Years had just happened, it was terribly cold, huge flakes of snow fell, and we met each other in a café.

Ryland was timid and soft-spoken; he had a small voice, a somewhat lost expression, and an obvious kindness. We talked a little, waiting for Colin and watching the snow fall harder and harder. I thought about bringing Ryland to a wine merchant’s place on my street, a store packed with old furniture and ancient bottles. But we needed to leave right then. This didn’t bother him. It was below zero, it was snowing, but Ryland Bouchard took his guitar, his mittens, and headed out with us. The store was closed, but that didn’t hold him back; he played without stopping, from the moment we left the bar until we arrived at my courtyard. And there, sheltered on a porch, he shook our hearts with “Golden You”.

It was still so, so cold. Historically, my courtyard had been a place of commerce and artisans, crossed by an alley that was made to let horses pulling carts with huge loads pass through. Today, the ground floor is made up of lofts, with the exception of a space occupied by a bookbinder of old books.

We went in. Two women sewed up philosophy books from another century. A man pounded on old works. All of them hardly looked up at the music; they remained craftsmen, making the calm and vaporous songs that Bouchard played seem even more timid and ethereal. You don’t bother hands at work.

(Translated by Caitlin Caven)