When 24-year-old instrumentalist Yasmin Williams plays guitar, she conjures new possibilities and stories from the instrument. Performing in a distinctive, inventive finger-style, and using only a looping pedal, Williams creates textured, harmonious soundscapes almost entirely by herself on each of her two solo instrumental albums: 2018’s Unwind, and her brand-new collection, Urban Driftwood.
The final song of Williams’ latest record is “After the Storm,” a gorgeous, haunting, nearly six-minute original that serves as both sermon and summary of what’s come before. Arriving on the album after a 40-minute song cycle of pastoral peace and dark, deep ruminating, “After the Storm” sounds like its title: a hopeful gesture towards brighter tomorrows in the midst of suffering and strife.
Williams recently explained that she completed the song, which she first started in 2019, after participating in Black Lives Matter protests last summer. “I didn’t want it to sound aggressive, that wasn’t how I was feeling” she told the Washington Post. “I wanted to be hopeful.”
Williams evokes all of this deep emotion without words. She spends the song adding and subtracting layers from the guiding melody. After a while, she adds a low, loping rhythm, layering melodies and rhythmic patterns until she begins creating shadow melodies, songs within a song — or, as Gillian Welch once put it, in her 2001 song “I Dream a Highway,” a “call within a call.”
“After the Storm” keeps slowly building in this way throughout, culminating in an almost symphonic climax at the five-minute mark. At that point, everything fades out except for Wiliams’ lead guitar. It feels like the blissful moments after a late summer storm: calm, quiet, and eager for the sun to finally come out.