Locus by Great YteneRelease date: February 17, 2017
Label: Faux Discx
I first reviewed London based post punk group Great Ytene back in 2014 for another blog. At the time, I pegged them as a psych band, but in listening to this new album, they have evolved (or rather deconstructed) into something different. The album is brash, in your face, noisy, and discordant. Rather than a set of finely polished pieces, they tore out the creamy filling and left the listener with a series of sharp, metallic tone poems.
Knowing they did this after losing an entire album’s worth of material to a tech glitch makes this outing a bit more interesting…and challenging. The album is dark, much like the murky skies that inhabit my part of the world in winter, and its moody heart perfectly reflects the political chaos going on in my country (and elsewhere). Before I take the reader into a summary of my reflections on this recording, I should give a bit of background. The band’s name is derived from an ancient term for the New Forest region on England’s south coast, where they all grew up. The band started off in their formative years as Colours, and over time they shed members, changed their sound, and finally chose a new name before they felt cohesive and comfortable as a unit.
The album was recorded and mixed in East London at Holy Mountain with producer and long-time collaborator Iggy B, mixed by MJ (Hookworms) at Suburban Home Studios in Leeds and mastered by Joe Caithness of Subsequent Mastering. The band lists early Deerhunter, Preoccupations, and Disappears as their primary influences this time ‘round, but you be the judge. I suspect we all hear different things; Wire has also been mentioned by reviewers. At the very least, it gives listeners a starting point.
‘Mono Aware’ is first out of the gate, and its menacing pulse roars at you. Bass and guitars are barely reined in, and it’s a fast charging tune. This tune reminds me the most of Wire, mostly for its sonic construct and phrasing, not for any other reason. It seems far bleaker than Wire, who usually toss in melody to alleviate the bleakness. Not so much with Great Ytene; this is acid laced with barbed wire. It’s tricky territory, but they cover it well. ‘George Street’ is a slight relief, with chilly melodic washes and less jagged edges. It easily could be the second single; ‘Locus’ claims the prize for first single off the album. It operates at a slower pace, instead of hurtling at you full force. In fact, the vocals remind me a tiny bit of The Fall.
‘Wanness’ has cool bass and percussion, precise and diamond hard. There is an interlude where light peeks in for a moment before the group resumes its machine gun pace. ‘Electro Pulses’ is slow and deliberate, and a moonless psych heart throbs at its core. It is darkness incarnate, with squealing guitars and uneasy trippiness. It changes at around 3:00, and shifts mood to some smoother art pop. ‘Fixed Victim’ is metronomic and the watery vocals toss it more into the psych camp, but it pulses post punk from a deep well of bass and percussion. ‘Physical Warmth’ shimmers a bit, but the repetitive bits dominate. The vocals remind me of early Raveonettes, and I waited for it to explode with sonic fireworks. Instead, the group keeps it trimmed back and mannerly. The finish they put on this is a bit of a head trip, and I wish they’d used more of that and less repetition.
‘Appetite’ is the final song, and it clocks in at just over five minutes. It has some of the drifting noise patterns Sonic Youth employed on Daydream Nation, but that could be my wishful thinking. The energy builds dramatically and is mostly instrumental with creepy sounds deep in the mix. It almost qualifies as amped up post rock before thundering to a close. In short, this is a challenging but intriguing addition to the band’s catalog that will interest fans of the aforementioned bands plus folks who have followed Great Ytene from the beginning.