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YVETTE – Process

"Process"

Release date: 05 May 2014
8/10
YVETTE Process
29 April 2014, 11:30 Written by Chad Jewett
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At its core, Process, the new album from Brooklyn duo YVETTE, is mood music. It’s just that the “mood” in question is one of looming dread. There has been a tendency to define the icy, angular aesthetic of the band as “industrial,” and indeed, the term is accurate if you consider the ways in which the variably pounding, cutting, and shrieking sounds which Yvette produces sound like they were made from sharp refuse lying around on a factory floor, and recorded in the same unheated, cavernous space.

This is all typified in opening track “Pure Pleasure,” a grinding four minutes of martial drums and rusted slabs of guitar punctuating singer Noah Kardos-Fein’s baritone pronouncements: “Keep the lid on, let it simmer / Keep it white hot till you’re ready,” later instructing someone (the listener, some mysterious subject, himself?) to “peal off the excess.” Those terse commands meld with the song’s post-punk churn to produce a particularly sinister mise-en-scène whose unnerving quality is only sharpened by the scraped-metal noises that lash the spaces between verses, sounds that are compellingly harrowing, like the punched-up noises that provide jumpy thrills in scary movies. Indeed, there’s a shadowy excess to tracks like “Pure Pleasure” that recall the nightmare cinematics of 1920s Expressionist horror films – everything is jagged, the landscape is pitch black.

“Cuts Me In Half” – a title that underlines the song’s cubist absolutism—delivers a similar feeling of uncanny, beginning with a strobe of noise one might associate with an electrical machine pulsing power into Frankenstein’s monster. In the factory-punk aesthetic of YVETTE that sound quickly shapes into something like a bass-line, providing an unsettling throb to the song, as constant as the drips of water torture beneath the song’s riotous ups and chilling downs, eventually becoming something like a warning alarm. Kardos-Fein rides that gathering unease, raising his voice to the upward pitch of treated guitars and grey noise. Later the entire knifing orchestra (it’s hard to place some of these sounds, so dysmorphic is their studio treatment) jabs away, almost at random, then ends abruptly, like a jarring fall down a winding stairwell. “Carbon Copy” similarly uses free-form noise as instrumentation, reaching near-Locust levels of shivering abstract cacophony as shrieking, echo-drenched feedback essentially serves as lead guitar, punctuating spaces at random, bursting like charges of random electricity. Of course, what must be reiterated is that there is an odd kinetic joy in these clanging, whirling, vaguely overwhelming sounds. Like Kanye West’s Yeezus, which found similar expressionism in the mania of near-physical noise, Process breaks itself into shards with such abandon that it becomes impossible to look away, and unlikely that you’d want to.

The album often works best when it’s mini bursts of searing clatter are laced into otherwise more humane surfaces. “Mirrored Walls” largely resembles the chilly post-punk of Joy Division or DNA, it’s verses plodding along in gothic romanticism until huge sheets of gloaming guitar noise and klaxon shrieks slowly twist the song’s recognizable templates into a kitchen floor covered in shattered glass. Later a bass guitar is sand-blasted and whittled at until it uncoils like barbed wire. In reality, what those deconstructions manage is to make sounds that have calcified over the course of thirty-odd years sound new again, adding angular nerviness and bracing futurism to what could have been pastiche. As such “Mirrored Walls” is perhaps the record’s best track, the moment where YVETTE truly get to have their post-punk cake and eat it too.

The rest of the album largely follows these templates, with various iterations of experimental punk music riven by acidic sound. “Tempered Glass” offers variation in unleashing sonic gales over hi-hat flecked dance beats, contrasting Kardos-Fein’s (relatively) pleasant sing-song melodies and a compellingly rubbery bass track, the whole thing split into pieces by Pterodactyl screeches of pointed discord until the song’s groove devolves into atonal free-for-all. Eventually, the chief pleasure of Process becomes trying to predict how each song’s recognizable art-rock foundations will be torn by feedback; which means that, like Scrooge awaiting the Ghost of Christmas Present, we’re most surprised when nothing happens, when relatively tame tracks like the psych-rocking “Everything In Reverse” simply play out, unassumingly. Of course we also shouldn’t be surprised when “Attrition” quickly makes up for lost time with dog-whistle peals of noise and digital racket not unlike two ancient Macintoshes chattering in an echo chamber. At its best, Process is an album that makes a virtue of its own patterns of gray art-punk surfaces slashed with caterwauling bursts, like a roller coaster you’ve ridden enough times to feel the ups and downs in your muscle memory. In both cases, the thrill remains, adrenal peaks and false-calm valleys.

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