PsychoYogi - Brand New Face

PsychoYogi – Brand New Face

Brand New Face is the first PsychoYogi album since 2021’s Digital Vagrancy, and will have been eagerly anticipated for those already converted to their peculiarly eccentric sound. The band have been around for years of course, honing their craft, and I have to admit I’m a bit late to the party, but better late than never, eh? The lynchpin of the band is vocalist, guitarist and composer Chris Ramsing, aided and abetted by stalwarts Izzy Stylish on bass, Toby Nowell on trumpet and saxophone, and Justin Casey on drums, the quartet which appeared on Digital Vagrancy. On Brand New Face, the line-up has been expanded to include Tim Smart on trombone, and Ben Woodbine-Craft on violin. This augmented line-up provides welcome extra texture, and adds to the musical interest on offer this time around.

PsychoYogi, for the uninitiated, are pretty left-field. They sound like nobody else, their style is hard to categorise, and they aren’t a particularly easy listen. There are pros and cons to this approach; they are immediately interesting as they are so individual, but on the reverse, some may be put off by being required to make more effort to listen to something new. Well, I would say they are well worth some perseverance, as Ramsing has something to say, and an entertaining way of saying it. And besides, after a couple of listens through the record, it’s actually fun and quite accessible.

Having asserted that PsychoYogi sound like nobody else, I’m not sure that Chris Ramsing would necessarily agree. On new song Everything Before, he states

“Don’t know what to say, of significance, what can we create that’s original,
Though we are inspired by the mystery, everything’s been done before.
Nothing can be new, it’s a fallacy, we cannot invent what’s already there,
Only replicate from necessity, everything’s been done before.”

Listening to Brand New Face, I’m not sure I can quite agree, but in general, he has a point. A lot of things purporting to be ‘new’ are rehashed or repackaged ideas. This isn’t altogether terrible, as the way an old idea is presented can be different. A couple of songs do actually remind me of other bands, yet sound markedly different in a PsychoYogi setting. For instance, the one instrumental here, The Chase, has an ascending sequence of chord changes that reminds me very much of King Crimson’s Fracture, but in no way does the song sound anything like it overall. It’s one of many highlights for me, partly because there are no words to listen to, and that concentrates the mind on what is happening musically and underlines how inventive and tight the band is. The violin on this track is particularly essential, as it seems to lead the charge. It begins with an eastern influence, then the violin takes charge, spurred on by Justin Casey’s jazzy drumming. Trumpet and trombone add urgency with their punctuation over the gently swirling guitar and bass, and the effect is breathless and thrilling.

Many of the songs lament the state of the world we find ourselves in, highlighting the inequality, unfairness and hopelessness. Ramsing tells it like it is, but understandably stops short of pointing toward solutions, as solutions aren’t easy or palatable. One cannot help but agree with many of his observations, even when they seem pretty obvious; when inequity surrounds us, it deserves to be called out. Opening track Destitution is in this vein, and also one of the best tracks. The contrast between the disillusionment of the lyrics and the almost jaunty jazz of the music is brilliant.

“Since it all began, all good folk must share the burden,
As the few who steal from many, take it all, don’t leave us any,
Life is hard until we die.”

Sounds bleak on paper, but it really isn’t in the context of the music, which gives a nod to Primus with its quirky jerky rhythm. The time signature changes every few bars, as if to fit the words in neatly. Don Van Vliet would have been proud of this one, and it makes a great introduction to the album. A Happier Song isn’t, although again the music has a woozy lilt as if drunk to escape reality.

“Bow to the one with the golden crown, aristocratic and wealthy,
We’re down here as you sneer, getting poorer by the year,
Living on fantasy, plastic and beer, deluded confused and unhealthy.”

Not all Ramsing’s musings are so bleak, however, and he is occasionally capable of optimism, or at least hope. On the title track Brand New Face he sings

“Life is for trying, no time for dying, tears are for crying, eyes are for what we see,
Hands are for mending, safely defending, future depending, searching for something new.”

I say ‘sings’, but of course Chris’s vocal style is unique, and somewhere between singing and speaking. It may not appeal to everyone, but I find his delivery rather compelling. At times it reminds me of the Tiger Lilies, who are similarly individual and idiosyncratic of course. His style comes over particularly well on the sprightly and amusing Arts & Farces which explores the creative process with incisive wit.

“What will inspire creative desire, come up with something new ’cause you’re feeling inventive
Burn as the fire gets higher and higher, gotta keep pursuing the creative incentive.”

And later…

“What will you gain, is the effort in vain, is it really any use to put it up for inspection,
Can it remain in the public domain, can you save it from abuse and misguided rejection?”

Sounds as though any review is going to be analysed, I’d better be careful! But seriously, I do think some of the observations are well targeted and entertainingly made.

Overall, I’m drawn to any album which balances interesting and pithy lyrics with intricate musicianship, and we certainly have that here. I love the sort of Magic Band meets Primus inspired style of the songs, and the laid-back yet incisive delivery. I also love the fact that Ramsing and his band have been ploughing their individual furrow for years now, and are determined to carry on, even if they face indifference from some. The world needs a band like PsychoYogi to kick it up the arse once in a while. I hope more people might be tempted to give this album a listen, because it does reward some time investment. It’s not going to provide instant gratification for a progressive rock itch, but for anyone open minded and prepared to make some effort, there are treasures awaiting. Go find them.

01. Destitution (5:33)
02. Arts & Farces (3:12)
03. The Process (3:47)
04. A Happier Song (3:51)
05. The Chase (6:39)
06. Brand New Face (5:16)
07. Opportunity (4:14)
08. Everything Before (2:55)
09. Open Season (4:11)
10. Find Peace Within (4:50)

Chris Ramsing – Guitar, Vocals
Izzy Stylish – Bass
Tim Smart – Trombone
Ben Woodbine-Craft – Violin
Toby Nowell – Trumpet, Saxophone
Justin Casey – Drums

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 29th September 2023

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