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JOURNEY OF THE YAK

Yak

 

Neo-Prog

3.77 | 38 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Headphone bliss as we journey into new progressive territories.

Martin Morgan kept the Yak dream alive since the band's formation in 1982 and the result is the band are finally able to release some excellent instrumental progressive albums. The "Dark Side of the Duck" began the voyage and the band set sail to embark on their latest venture "The Journey of the Yak". The band's members have ties to prog legends Yes, Whimwise and The Enid and so you may expect the influences to come out strong on their album. In fact the influences of Camel and ELP are far more pronounced. The use of multilayered keyboards, with flute-sounds and scorching guitars are the dominant force. The Steve Hackett style guitar breaks are mesmirising. There are even passages of vocalisations using synthesizers in the soundscape.

The album evokes pleasant aural imagery of wide sweeping plains, vast mountain scapes and Tolkienesque fantasy horizons. The atmosphere is dreamy and haunting but never less than uplifting and evocative. There are some intricate complexities of music such as the title track and these sequences are juxtaposed with simple pieces such as 'Dearly Departed'. The beauty of this track is it's melancholy melody that touches the emotions, especially the flute sections that have a powerful resonance. It begins with beautiful piano, a very pretty melody that is consistent and rather sombre but utterly compelling. It is a short track but so endearing and lulling in a dreamy way.

The real feature of this music is rather than just background music there is an imposing mood that grabs hold and refuses to let go. I have heard the music many times now and it is always a new experience as the listener is allowed to take from it whatever he or she wishes. There are long lead guitar breaks such as on the title track. Morgan is masterful on keyboards, particularly mellotron, Dave Speight produces innovative metrical patterns on drums and Gary Bennett is the rhythm machine on bass.

On the opener 'Gates of Moria' the keyboards dominate and there are swishes of wind effects and a strong melody. The atmosphere transports you out of the real into the imaginary realm like all good music should. You can visualise the sounds. The opening track is compelling and has a hypnotic melody that draws you in with every listen.

'Entangled in Dreams' has a soft flute and acoustic sound. The melody on piano carries it along beautifully, and this is echoed with the electric guitar, a virtuosic performance of huge string bends and harmonics. The Hammond sound kicks in and it sounds more like ELP in this passage. This is one of the best works on the album and it grew on me very fast like osmosis. I think it is more like Camel than other pieces or "The Snow Goose" album especially, it certainly has that classic 70s prog sound so difficult to emulate, though Yak have managed to do so masterfully on this album. The ending with haunting flute sounds and ambient guitar and keyboard is absolutely spine chilling prog; a masterpiece track that really resonates with my senses on every listen.

'Jadis of Charn' features a Baroque intro and then an infectious hook in melody. The guitars are heavenly with strong string bends and they are played over relentless grinding organ. In particular I like that riff 7 mins into it that locks in and reminds me of 70s prog such as the early Genesis or Caravan or even Nektar come to think of it. I would rate this track as a definitive highlight. This is the reason I listen to prog; to discover scintillating, captivating music such as this.

'March of the Huorns' begins with Classical Baroque nuances, choral voices, and then a huge sound blast of keyboards backed by the crash of drum and bass. There is an interplay of instruments creating tension and release that all prog songs should encompass. The sound embodies a sense of wonder and exploration. The Emerson like Hammond sound is always welcome and those Gong-influenced spacey guitars that rise and fall over embellishments of sporadic drumming; a pure delight to my ears. The melody on guitar is now familiar after several lessons and always lifts my spirits high. This chugs along at a brisk pace with heavy handed piano and strings via mellotron played with dexterity by the hand of Morgan.

The final track 'Journey of the Yak' is the absolute fresh sound of Yak and this featured as a track on "Prognosis 4" that came as a sampler with the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine and introduced me to the band. Interlaced within this last epic are some incredible proggy moments. It begins with piano and huge lead guitar in a wall of sound. It locks into a rather jagged staccato riff that sounds orchestral and the way the drums kick in is enough to gain my attention. The main drawcard is the Hammond blasts once again that remind one of Rick Wakeman or Emerson. The virtuoso musicianship of the trio is incredible and they go into full flight on this. At 3:40 a deep staccato drone introduces the new time sig and the Hammond organ crunches a wondrous motif with some soaring spacey guitar passages. The music has an organic quality with dissonances in sound and metrical shapes that fracture the rhythms. At 7:04 a warm piano chimes in and it rings the mood down to a serene feel, then the Andy Latimer style guitar lead break takes it to a new level. This is some of the best music I have heard in a long time.

So, overall the album is a remarkable throwback to all that made the 70s great, when prog was a dominant force; virtuoso musicianship, lengthy tracks, extended keyboard and guitar solos, moody atmospherics and a conceptual framework: that pertinently describes "The Journey of The Yak".

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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