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Yeasayer - King's College, London, 20/8/2008

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 22 / 8 / 2008

Yeasayer - King's College, London, 20/8/2008


Chris O' Toole is enthralled by Brooklyn-based experimentalists' Yeasayer's mercurial take on modern pop at a show at King's College in London

Fresh from hipster hotbed Brooklyn, Yeasayer offer a mercurial take on modern pop – filtering a Middle Eastern, African and Eastern European structures through the über-cool style of American contemporary music. Relevant comparisons can be drawn with Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, TV on the Radio and the Walkman – all of whom filter beguiling, atmospheric sounds handed down through the ages into a modern paradigm. These groups also possess a natural, organic sound – but one produced through the contortion of modern technology to their specific whim. Yeasayer, however, stand apart from this particular pack due to their employment of four way vocal harmonies and a strong commitment to a democratic sound; allowing all players equal time at centre stage. Lacking a real showman as the focus of the group, each member instead takes a shift in the limelight, before returning to the shadow. This turns the group into a multifaceted enigma; as they mix pre-historic chants and mantras – not to mention the requisite handclaps, crier bells and tambourines – with cutting edge drum machines, electronic and sound manipulation techniques. Tonight they are billed as 'An Evening with Yeasayer', but this fails to materialise as the group take the stage just after nine in the traditional manner. Banter is kept to a minimum – outside of a comment jokingly suggesting the group used to be an Oasis covers outfit – as the group launch into pieces from their debut album 'All Hour Cymbals'. The crowd is slow to respond, largely due to the somewhat muted start from the band, but once a rhythm is established the sound washes around the venue, sweeping up the audience in a fuzzy, euphoric haze. To stage left guitarist Anand Wilder is perhaps the most traditional in his playing, peppering short, staccato guitar spikes over the mutating sound created by his peers. Even his, relatively, simple style is, however, heavily augmented by an array of peddles and enigmatic devices. Yeasayer rely heavily on their technical ingenuity to control their sound, but mix this with acoustic contributions from all quarters. Drummer Luke Fasano is a case in point, using samples, drum machines and all manner of technological wizardry, alongside a cymbal that looks like a batter hubcap. This, however, pales into comparison to bassist Ira Wolf Tuton – cousin of Wilder – who distorts, twists and manipulates a fantastic variety from his fretless bass. It is his contribution which adds the woozy, disorientating elements to the group's recorded sound, but the higher register notes can become lost in the live setting. While Tuton looks like he personally is living every second of the experience, his contribution can become muddled and distract from the flow of the music. Chris Keating, in the centre of the stage, jerks and contorts in a deliberately artful manner, keeping one eye on the crowd in order to ensure they are paying the necessary attention to his dancing feet. His vocals are perhaps the most dominant, but the lyrics can often leave an empty feeling, filled as they are with vague calls to love each other, the spirit of the future and a joyous optimism – without ever offering any specifics or hooks. The hits – '2080' (which Yeasayer follow with a new song to continue their mix of new and old) and 'Germs' – are warmly welcomed and other album tracks are applauded. Despite this being their fifteenth gig in the UK, the group improves with each visit and attracts a larger crowd each time. While they are still only one album in, Yeasayer have already won a cult status and are likely to go from strength to strength from here. A promising proposition indeed.

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Yeasayer - King's College, London, 20/8/2008

Yeasayer - King's College, London, 20/8/2008

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