Thursday, December 5, 2019

Albums of the Year # 21 Olden Yolk - Living Theatre

From May:

It's wonderful to see New Yorkers Olden Yolk back so soon with their beautifully textured second album Living Theatre. (out today) Their eponymous record, released just a year ago, was a great favourite of mine but this is something else still. A definite thickening and enrichment of the sound and vision they formulated there.

The band, essentially a duo, work from a palette of familiar colours and textures. What they've always made me think of most is the New York of the Sixties, Greenwich Village Folk Cafes, people playing chess on Washington Square, Autumnal hues, a landscape populated by literary urbanites.

Though their sound is steeped in cultural memory it's not in thrall to any one particular sound or artist because Olden Yolk are eclectic magpies and reset all they collect into a record that sounds very much relevant to the here and now. There are a number of musical artists working incredibly creatively in this mode at the minute, Weyes Blood and Aldous Harding, to name but two, have put out records that had a similar unnerving effect on me in recent weeks and on first listening it's immediately apparent that Living Theatre will offer up measureless further listening delights. An opportunity to wallow in an undefined nostalgia.

One of the qualities that I'm more and more struck by with Olden Yolk is their evident but unforced cleverness. Interviews with Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer, the partnership that formulates the band, evidences a rich and varied seam of cultural inspirations from which they forge their sound. Indie in the loosest sense but far more diverse and evocative than the obvious and derivative product that you often get served up from bands operating under that umbrella which so often results in lazy plundering the gifts of the past. This by contrast, is anything but lazy.

I've been watching favourite films again in recent days. The Last Picture Show, Vertigo, West Side Story.Things that I recognise immediately but need to re-experience every once in a while to remind me of their beauty and permanence. Listening to Living Theatre, (in itself a wonderful name for a record), has had a similar impact upon me this morning. This time a nostalgia that I hadn't experienced before. It's an album that's a marked step forward from the debut record that preceded it, fine though that was in its own right. A record you'll want to listen to all day. Or at least one that I certainly do and will.

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