Review & Track Premiere: Yagow, Yagow

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

yagow yagow

[Click play above to stream ‘Snake Charmer’ from the self-titled Yagow LP, out June 16 on Crazysane Records and available to preorder here.]

An overarching feel of lysergic serenity would seem to be the means to its own end on Yagow‘s self-titled debut, which is to say that the six-song first outing from the Saarbrücken, Germany, three-piece sets for its primary goal the very wash it uses to meet that goal. It is an exploration of vibe and mood, space-gazing through its 42-minute stretch propelled by unknown fuels. Recorded by the band — guitarist/vocalist/noisemaker Jan Werner, bassist Axel Rothhaar and drummer/percussionist Marc Schönwald with Kai Peifer (who also mixed, along with Werner and Berni Götz, who also mastered) on bass for side B’s “Non-Contractual” — and issued through Crazysane Records, Yagow‘s tuned-in headspaces should feel familiar to those who’ve worshiped at the altars of The Heads or Loop but they seem interested in casting their own melodic identity as well in these tracks.

One can hear this in the organ-style sounds of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horsehead Nebula” or the sitar of the subsequent “Snake Charmer,” buried in the mix though it is, and the result is an outing of headphone-worthy depth that comes across as honest in its intentions and likewise assured in how to meet the goals it has set. Songs play out one into the next with a patient fluidity and perhaps a budding sense of nuance, and it seems that the only thing Yagow don’t leave room for in the album’s span is pretense. This is head music for a head audience. It’s not trying to say anything it doesn’t want to say and it’s not trying to be anything it isn’t. Listeners can either sign up for the journey or miss out on the trip that ensues.

For what it’s worth, the band makes a pretty compelling argument toward the former. While remaining up-front in their purposes and playing by the rules of vinyl modernity by splitting Yagow neatly in half, three cuts to a side, they nonetheless execute a classic psychedelic vibe — not necessarily playing to influences from the ’60s or ’70s, but certainly aware of those roots. Each song in the record’s first half — “Horsehead Nebula,” “Snake Charmer” and “Moss and Mint” — has something to stand it out from its compatriots, whether it’s the aforementioned melody and sitar of the opener and its follow-up or the return of that particularly blissful tone that either could be keys or could be guitar effects on “Moss and Mint,” coming on more languid the second time around and allowing the three-piece to convey an overarching flow as well as distinguish the individual from its surroundings. “Oh yeah, that’s the song where that happens,” and so on.

Whether this is done consciously or not on the part of the band — one doesn’t want to assume either way, and this material almost certainly has its beginnings in jams either improvised or led by one member or another — is secondary compared to the effect it has on the overall listening experience, which, when taken front to back, proves duly consuming and switched-on in its overall affect. As Werner‘s vocals drawl out amid the wash of “Moss and Mint” after the more winding space-charged fuzz of “Snake Charmer,” there’s some subtlety to be found for those who’d pay repeat visits to Yagow‘s psychedelic palace, but even if the album splits in half, it’s more about the entirety of the thing than any one song, or even part. And that’s not to its detriment in the slightest.

yagow

Rather, as side B starts with the more blown-out low end tonality of “Time to Get Rid of It,” that subtlety only turns out to make the offering richer on the whole. Atop a steady rhythm, vocals echo out and another distorted wash is conjured, and truth be told, Yagow have by this time set their methods forward for their audience. There’s little they do across the second half of their debut to deviate, but they do successfully build on what they’ve already accomplished sound-wise, which seems more important than it would be for them to present some radical shift. “Time to Get Rid of It” drifts into and through a section of vocals over chimes before Schönwald‘s drums resume their push into the song’s final third, and the eight-minute “Non-Contractual” makes its first impression with drums as well building to a trade of tension and release across its span that reminds a bit of a less folkish Quest for Fire, and toys with momentum in a manner that it seems a lot of the prior material avoided in favor of worshiping more ethereal atmospheres.

Perhaps in part because it’s longer — one might consider it a companion piece for the opener, as it also tops eight minutes — and perhaps in part because of the droning resonance that lays underneath a goodly portion of its stretch, “Non-Contractual” feels more expansive, especially in its back-half jam, with an element of vibrancy that serves it well leading into closer “Nude on the Moon Dance,” which echoes and reinforces the ringing tones of “Horsehead Nebula” and “Moss and Mint” as well as the thrusters-engaged forward rhythm of the latter portion of “Snake Charmer,” all while feeling a little less hinged in a way that speaks to the real potential of the band to let loose a little and break some of the rules they’ve set for themselves here.

It’s worth remembering, and important to remember, that while they’ve been around for a few years (their social media presence starts at 2013, if that’s any measure) this self-titled is their first collective outing, and ultimately it’s to their credit that one hears a song like “Time to Get Rid of It” and waits for Yagow to expand on what they presented in the album’s first half — because it means they’ve done their job in establishing their core sound. And so they have. The work before them now as they move from one liquefied slab onto the inevitable next should be in furthering the lightly progressive undertones delivered here. Maybe that’s in building on the arrangement flourish of “Snake Charmer” or in being willing to dive deeper into the off-the-cuff feel of “Non-Contractual” and “Nude on the Moon Dance” — I don’t know. It will be their songwriting that makes that decision in the end, but what matters for the time being is the foundation they’ve given themselves on which to build, which feels flexible enough to accommodate any range of directions they might want to take.

Yagow on Thee Facebooks

Yagow website

Yagow preorder at Crazysane Records

Crazysane Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,