Review & Track Premiere: Somali Yacht Club, The Sea

somali yacht club the sea

[Click play above to hear ‘Vero’ from Somali Yacht Club’s The Sea. Album is out Jan. 22 on Robustfellow Productions and Kozmik Artifactz.]

The second full-length from Lviv-based three-piece Somali Yacht Club, The Sea, would seem to speak more to a spirit of progressive melancholia than its predecessor, 2014’s The Sun (discussed here). This is despite the fact that the two records share in common deep-toned heavy psychedelic underpinnings and an overarching rhythmic fluidity. One could argue that it’s been four years and perhaps the Ukrainian trio of guitarist/vocalist Mez, bassist Artur and drummer Lesyk have grown as an outfit as a result of touring and appearing at notable gatherings like Desertfest Berlin, SonicBlast Moledo, etc., but to listen to the six-track/53-minute outing and ignore the apparent mindfulness behind its drift is to miss out on one of the album’s most resonant appeals.

It’s not just a record that jams out spacious tones and gently echoing melodic vocals in a tossed-off manner; there is an overarching purposefulness to its fluidity and to its presentation, which begins with the opening salvo provided by the extended “Vero” (11:38) and “Religion of Man” (12:02) and moves directly into the Elder-style heavy-prog shimmer of the shortest inclusion, “Blood Leave a Trail,” which still has enough swirl to not be a contrast in its 6:20 run. If one wanted, I suppose, they could hear The Sea and simply get lost in the wash of “Vero” and suddenly snap back to consciousness after the finale of “Crows” has ended, but whether it’s Arthur‘s bassline as the foundation for the volume swell of effects at the start of “Hydrophobia” or the swinging taps on Lesyk‘s ride cymbal as “Vero” jazzily approaches its peaceful, atmospheric midsection, the collection is rife with details that warrant active engagement.

In other words, the more one puts into hearing it, the more satisfaction one is likely to reap from The Sea on the whole. To wit, the initial pairing of “Vero” and “Religion of Man” is perhaps the most obvious showcase of intent on the part of Somali Yacht Club in terms of their desire to fully engage and hypnotize, and while they come close to earning the immediate points of opening with their longest track — there should be a partial credit system for the salvo as a whole, but I haven’t worked out the metrics of such things; check back (or don’t) — it’s the breadth in the midsection of “Vero” that’s most likley to entrance outright. All throughout The Sea, the band demonstrate an ability to transition between wide-cast ambience and more directly weighted, riffier fare, and that’s true of the linear build in the second half of “Vero” as well as it picks up past the seven-minute mark and lumbers to its exciting conclusion, but it’s the patience there and in “Religion of Man” as well (speaking of details: the low-end angularity and feedback interplay in the eighth minute has to be heard to be believed) that makes the execution such a thrill to fully embrace and in tempo as much as construction, the songs are truly progressive in the sense of being thoughtful works manifesting a decisive creative growth.

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That Somali Yacht Club then manage to shift modus into the six-minute “Blood Leave a Trail” essentially without missing a beat shows how well they’ve already managed to carry their listeners with them, and as the rest of The Sea rolls toward the shore, there is never a moment at which they seem either to be out of control or unaware of what effect their material might be having on their audience. Certainly they take their time getting to where they’re going, but as a whole, The Sea is almost perfect in its pacing, and the fact that MezArtur and Lesyk so confidently move at such a languid clip only further speaks to their progress in developing a chemistry over the last several years coming off the debut.

Serene and still a little sad, “Hydrophobia” begins the second half of the tracklisting (one assumes side B of the vinyl actually starts with “Blood Leave a Trail” before it) with an exploratory feel, but splits shortly after its midpoint to the most driving moment on The Sea, quicker in its tempo and more forceful in its swing, but still holding to the reach of the prior tracks in tone and reverb. The final four inclusions on The Sea — “Blood Leave a Trail,” “Hydrophobia,” “84 Days” and aforementioned closer “Crows” — are arranged longest to shortest, so the effect is that the record works to re-immerse the listener as it goes, and it’s telling that the last pairing of “84 Days” and “Crows” are shorter at 7:27 and 9:13, respectively, than the tracks were at the outset, as though Somali Yacht Club didn’t want to ask too much indulgence on the part of their listenership.

That may or may not be their motivation, I don’t know, but the track arrangement works just the same like a rising tide that gradually swells to engulf the shore. “84 Days” is massive by the time the vocals arrive late, having grown so subtly along the way that it’s perhaps the easiest point on the record to lose one’s self, and as the standalone riff of “Crows” begins the last piece, the band seem to be securing their triumph with a victory lap of a groove. Well earned. There’s an uptick in pace as they move toward the middle — Lesyk seeming to double-time it on drums — but it’s shortlived, and the core of “Crows” resides around a singular, nod-ready progression that lumbers in the fullness of its fuzz early and reemerges from the psych-gazing middle third to cap the finale with due payoff for the reaches plumed before it.

If 75 percent of the earth is water, The Sea might just be wet enough to earn its name, but where the album’s true achievement lies is in the grace with which its component pieces come together and the flow that unites them as a whole work, cohesive in sound and purpose and resonant in tone and emotion. One is curious to think what might happen if Somali Yacht Club, after The Sun and The Sea, finally approach landfall with their third outing, but wherever these sonic waves ultimately carry them, the journey is a joy to behold.

Somali Yacht Club, The Sea (2018)

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