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Yowie - Synchromysticism CD (album) cover





4.50 | 8 ratings

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4 stars Math rock has always sort of struck me as a genre that came into existence through the same sentiments and mentalities that once drove progressive rock, yet doesn't want to be associated with the latter out of fear of being associated with the negative stereotypes and prejudices held towards prog rock by some people (not to say that there aren't clear stylistic differences between the two genres, of course). Bands that fall under the math rock moniker can be roughly divided into two subcategories: the more well-known of these blends indie and/or emo rock with complex rhythms and time signatures and is represented by bands such as This Town Needs Guns and American Football. The other (which usually gets classified under the RIO/avant-prog moniker on this website) is more influenced by noise music and seems to be mostly explored by Japanese bands. Yowie, despite being from Missouri, definitely falls into the latter category, and is about where you end up if the music of Conlon Nancarrow is too commercial for you. It's easy to mistake the band's first album, Cryptooology (from 2004), for nothing but random, freely improvised noise. However, if you listen to their second album, Damning With Faint Praise (released as late as 2012; yes, this band is notorious for prolonged bouts of inactivity in between albums), it becomes more clear what they're actually doing. The supposed random noise of Cryptooology is actually meticulously composed and played with the utmost precision. The screaming dissonant harmonies, the nigh impossible to follow rhythms that change at lightning speed, every bit of it is carefully planned out. Damning With Faint Praise departs from the same principle but has a little more mercy on its audience: the songs are more clearly divided into identifiable sections, and, unlike the last album, one of the two guitar players is relegated mostly to the bass register so that it's more easy to detect what each instrument is doing. The result sounded like a refinement of the old formula, and yielded an album with a notably distinct and very intriguing sound.

So how much further has Yowie evolved with Synchromysticism, released five years after the band's previous album? Well... not that much further. This music is still extremely complicated, virtuosic and atonal, but if you listen to it right after Damning With Faint Praise there's not a whole lot that will catch you off guard, except for one truly remarkable aspect which sets it apart from its predecessors and which certainly surprised me when it finally occurred to me: some of these songs are actually... catchy. Tell me you don't want to dance to the 3/4 beat of "The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You", and tell me the menacing 7/8 melody of "Absurdly Ineffective Barricade" isn't infectious as all hell! It takes a very specific kind of talent to make the highly intricate and experimental music that Yowie makes, but it takes a whole different kind of talent to add an element of immediate memorability and 'toe-tappability' to a melody that's so ugly by conventional standards. More than any other song on this album, this one proves that Yowie is certainly no one-trick pony. If they keep up making each consecutive album slightly more listener-friendly at their current tempo, I imagine they'll end up at their own Love Beach approximately in the year 2286, so don't give up hope, ye faint-of-heart music lovers! This band will eventually give you what you're looking for.

Speaking of evolution, one thing I find amusing about this band is the progression of their song titling habits, from Cryptooology's gibberish names with three syllables at most ("Towanda", "Talisha", etc.) to this album's overlong and nonsensical titles such as "The Reason Your House Is Haunted Can Be Found On This Microfiche". And while I'm meandering about the album's non-musical aspects: I think the album cover looks gorgeous and its intricate web-like pattern is a perfect analogy for the music found within, but to be fair, it's still surpassed in awesomeness by the cover of Cryptooology, which actually showed the Bigfoot-like creature from Australian folklore from which the band takes its name.

In conclusion, while I think Damning With Faint Praise is more original and a more technically accomplished product, Synchromysticism is still an impressive achievement and has merits that shouldn't be overlooked. Listen to it if you dare.

Mirakaze | 4/5 |


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