Frequently as abstract as the artwork the graces its cover, Ryley Walker’s 5th album sees the Chicago based songwriter taking his fancy for jazz-laden folk jams into a whole new meadow of experimentation. Deafman Glance rebukes traditional song structures, spiralling on artistic whims and eddying in introspective fancies: darker, moodier and far more intense than previous material, this album will provide no joy for listeners hoping for a collection of the breezy, summertime, after-the-barley-harvest-smoking-a-doobie songs its predecessors occasionally offered.

While this may be a disappointment for some fans, it doesn’t represent an erratic change in direction. A penchant for the complex has always taken audible form in Walker’s compositions - Deafman Glance is just his most demanding record yet. Still, when Walker jumps headlong from one section of song to another, offering no link between the two, it taxes on the first few listens. Here it seems Walker only hopes the thin loyalty of his fair-weather fans will stop them from hitting eject too soon; but having suckled them on tasty morsels of accessibility, the self-conscious rustle of Van Morrison fans politely defecting into the long grass remains faintly audible throughout.

Listeners who can weather the change will discover Deafman Glance is a grower. ‘22 days’ is an early highlight, with tasteful production and a catchy chorus hook balancing its structural dysmorphia. The heart of the album is in ‘Telluride Speed’ and its multiple guises: it’s a folk ramble, a King-Gizzard B-side and a blues stomper all in one. A few tracks, however, make the listener work too hard and offer little in return, ending up as skip-bait. Both ‘Accommodations’ and ‘Expired’ fall into this camp, the former for its joylessness, and the latter for rhyming the words “tired”, “expired”, “wire” and “hire” in a single stanza with no decipherable meaning.

Generally, however, the quality is high. Walker’s ear for capturing the effervescent timbres of folk greats remains a tangible selling point of the music on this album, although he now wears his influences a little lighter. He’s outgrown sounding like the bottled essence of Burt Jansh, Nick Drake and Tim Buckley; now only the shadows of their presences hang lightly in the studio air.

Evidently enjoying the newfound freedom that he’s embraced both structurally and stylistically, Walker continues to re-define his sound on Deafman Glance without quite leaving the niche he’s been carving over the course of his career. The complexity of the songs means there is plenty to enjoy upon repeat listening, although some tracks do feel under-developed. There is no denying that Walker is talented, but five albums in, we’re still waiting for the flawless masterpiece we hope he’s capable of.