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Further comments on its loaded title aside, Surrounded has a close-quartered bedroom quality that hearkens back to Buckner's four-track roots. "Maybe there's a vague paranoia about the outside world [in the songs]," says Buckner, who's been name-checked as a fave by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. "[The album] got written in a really roundabout way. A friend had asked me to write a movie script, but with the way I'm used to working I had to first write a 45-minute concept album as a way to organize my thoughts. After I did that, I started trying to write a novella based on the songs that I could then adapt to a script. In the end, I just ended up making the album. [Laughs.]" But hopefully, an indie-screen treatment of Surrounded hasn't been entirely ruled out: As "Mood," "Foundation," and similar shadowy, noirish narratives drift out of the speakers, it's not a stretch to picture the late-night scene around some dimly lit, River's Edge-style shack on the outskirts of town.
"Richard's tunes and lyrics are a little hypnotic—they creep up on you rather than bash you in the forehead," says Mekons main man Jon Langford, who partnered with Buckner for the 2005 duo set Sir Dark Invader vs. the Fanglord (Buried Treasure Records). "I don't know where he's going and I don't know where his songs will end up." But wherever Buckner and his songs do go, admirers of consummately crafted, mesmerizing music will be following closely. And digging the ride.
Surrounded is out now on Merge Records. Richardbuckner.com.