Yowie is one of those names that evoke wonderment, amazement, bewilderment. It all began with their 2004 debut, Cryptooology, which redefined the boundaries of the math rock genre. In truth, I believe they stand besides Hella for their contribution to the genre. Cryptooology and Hold Your Horse Is are kin, siblings of the same noospheric matrix, in my eyes. We had to wait eight years before Yowie were to release their sophomore, Damning with Faint Praise, which took the flame of its predecessor, and swallowed it.
Today, I’ll be writing my thoughts on the band’s third release, titled Synchromysticism. The album comes out on April twenty-first, through the always-surprising Skin Graft Records label.
Expectedly, the album starts off unexpectedly. ‘Ineffable Dolphin Communion’ begins the thirty-three-minute journey to come by making us believe we arrived in the midst of a song, just as it ends. Kicking off an album with a decrescendo is, indeed, a rather uncommon and counter-intuitive choice. Ten seconds in, and you already know what you’re in for. Yowie are back to go, once again, against the current, and to provide compositions that could not possibly have come from any other collective mind. A more unsettling detail is the left-panned bass guitar – which is actually a custom-made guitar with really thick string gauge, but, since the instrument takes some of the bass guitar’s range and timbre, I’ll refer to it as such for simplicity -, and the right-panned electric guitar. This is an idiosyncrasy you will have to put up with throughout the half-hour the album lasts. On a standard stereo system, it’s barely noticeable – unless your speakers are widely separated – but on headphones, it’s nightmarish! The band has, since its inception, used panning in order to differentiate between their two guitarists – most noticeably on their sophomore -, but since the move of one of them to bass, this feature is more of a nuisance than anything else. I do not recommend listening to it on headphones for extended periods of time.
As far as the music goes, however, Synchromysticism is perhaps synonymous with totally awesome! The production, minus the aforementioned little detail, is better than any of their previous works, the song construction is as strong as ever. In other heartwarming news, the members of the Missourian trio still know how to count, and they make sure we are aware of their feat. 5/4 and 7/4 are, at first glance (I didn’t run the statistics software on the data yet), the most prevalent hypermetres of the record, subdivided into many different underlying measures. It should be noted that polymetrics and polyrhythmics aren’t an exotic sight in any of Yowie’s material, but their presence is once again a statement to the quality of the compositions and the efforts put into their scaffolding. The musical prowesses displayed in this amalgamation of forward-thinking and progressive math rock lie as much in the muscles as in the neurons. It isn’t so centred on virtuosity as, say, Animals as Leaders, and it isn’t so centred on rhythmic intricacies as Bisbâyé, but both aspects are equally important, here, and pushed to a certain degree that challenges, inspires, and mesmerizes, all at once.
In conclusion, Yowie’s Synchromysticism is the continuation of the band’s manifesto of pushing music into new territories. It builds upon the two anterior releases by its apparent madness and peculiar musicality, and adds a much-needed instrument to complete the overall sound of the group. As a whole, Cryptomysticism, as well as Cryptooology and Damning with Faint Praise, should find itself in the music libraries of all those who like a healthy dose of experimental in their rock, and the many of you who know and love the band Hella, among others.
A review copy of this album was provided for this review.
1: Ineffable Dolphin Communion – 6:24
2: Mysterium tremendum – 5:58
3: Absurdly Ineffective Barricade – 5:40
4: The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You – 7:00
5: The Reason Your Horse Is Haunted Can Be Found on This Microfiche – 8:13
Total running time: 33:12
File type listened to: MP3
Bit rate: 320 kbps CBR
Sampling rate: 44,100 Hz, 2 channels