What’s in a name you ask?
Well, if your parents were Mr and Mrs Wood, they probably shouldn’t name you Ken, or if your surname was Awful, you wouldn’t use it as a brand name, after all who’d want a bag of Awful Crisps?
Anyway, I digress, what you call your band will give unwary listeners preconceptions and suggest a certain arena that you would perform in, after all, no-one would expect Napalm Death to be a folk trio performing the Greenpeace stage at Glastonbury would they?
Anyhow, this band, Laktating Yak, has one of the oddest, out there band names I have come across since Gandalf’s Fist, and when I was invited to review their album, I honestly had no idea what to expect.
I love that, the name conjuring up one thing and messing with your ideas and preconceptions, and the little reviewer warning radar flickering at the back of the head; ‘You volunteered to review this, what if it’s awful? how do you blag your way out of that one?’
Also of course, after entering my 25th year of reviewing, I have learnt never to judge a band by their name.
Luckily, I have no need to blag or worry review wise, as the U.S. band Laktating Yak are proponents of highly intelligently crafted post rock that would sit perfectly on a shelf that includes The Fierce and the Dead, VLMA and Explosions in the Sky. This mostly instrumental album, Origin of the Yak, is based on a Himalayan legend, which is told here through the band’s musical skills, taking us on an intense and intelligent musical journey.
Straddling multiple genres and blurring lines as it goes, it’s incredibly inventive. When the instruments used include saxes, violins, and indeed didgeridoo, which is the first thing you hear on the opening Summoning (of Yak), you know you’re going to be listening to something ever so slightly different to the norm, and as it segues into Invokation of the Yak Pt. 1, where the violin of Charles Anderson and guitar of Charlie Bryan slowly build a nourishing Gothic riff that starts to wind its way hypnotically into the track. As the drums crash in and the piece whirls with violin and guitar sounds it reminds me of Starless-era King Crimson, Anderson’s violin having the same impact here as David Cross’ did then.
This isn’t me suggesting they are copying them, merely pointing out what it reminds me of. This is no ’70s homage, it is very much a contemporary rock album.
The ways the band build and flow their musical pieces are highly complex and incredibly well thought out, as on pieces like The Errorist where chanting and the low drone of the saxes evoke atmospheres and the otherworldly, then the violin cuts through on some of these tracks, there is real control around the way the songs explode, you feel like you are on a roller coaster that is always threatening to go out of control, but never does.
The controlled chaos, the improvisational nature of the music, and the story that it’s based on makes this one of the most stunningly original albums I have heard in a long time. The way the band flit between instruments, sounds and styles, and the way the violin works as lead instrument, taking equal prominence as the guitar, whilst on tracks like Stampede of Yak, the percussion is as important an instrument.
The way Invokation of the Yak closes out the album is a delight, as they weave the sound of the didgeridoo back into the music, and as an instrument, it’s one that I think far more bands should use to add ambience and, again, the otherworldly and spiritual to the music.
Overall this is an eclectic, inventive and highly original album, which has throughout superb musicianship and fantastic arrangements of intelligent instrumental driven music.
This is one that bears repeated listens.
01. Summoning (of Yak) (1:05)
02. Invokation of the Yak Pt.1 (5:33)
03. The Errorist (5:58)
04. Tsak of the Yak (3:48)
05. Stampede of Yak (3:47)
06. Hidden Yak Fantasy (5:37)
07. Invokation of the Yak Pt.2 (6:24)
Total Time – 32:10
Charles Anderson – Violin, Percussion
Tobin Armstrong – Bass
Charlie Bryan – Guitar
Angel Garcia – Drums, Vocals, Effects
Danny Kamins – Alto & Baritone Saxophone
Edgar Quintana – Tenor Saxophone
Henry Anderson – Didgeridoo
Jocelyn Tara Hunt – Additional Vocals