Once you’ve settled into it, Yeasayer’s Fragrant World is a wonderful place to explore.
Alix Buscovic 2012-08-14
Prior to the release of this third album, Brooklyn’s triumvirate of indie psych mavericks – Chris Keating, Anand Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton – sent fans on an Internet scavenger hunt. Like hipster Easter Bunnies dealing magic and childlike wonder, they hid videos of every song on Fragrant World over the web, dropping clues to help the search.
Successful treasure seekers uncovered avant-garde director Yoshi Sodeoka’s colourful, squirming abstract visuals: an artier version of fractals at a rave. And as you’d expect, there’s a slightly drugged-out feel to the musical loot that these kaleidoscopic (end of the) rainbows accompanied.
Fanclub-only single Henrietta (inspired by the woman whose cancerous cells were used to make an immortal line for medical research) moves from funked-up 80s pop with a bass refrain to dreamy underwater atmospherics and back again, building up to a trippy, mesmerising haze in which Keating intones the mantra: “Oh Henrietta / We can live on forever.”
Although this track has an immediacy to it, there’s nothing on Fragrant World to touch the feet-bleeding danse de joie accessibility of O.N.E., the lead single from 2010’s equally synth-filled Odd Blood. There are still plenty of hooks and booty-shaking beats, such as the Middle Eastern-flecked dance funk of Damaged Goods. But the genre-melting experimentalism is greater here, the music denser and the lyrics darker, than on their previous LPs.
Reagan’s Skeleton, a political critique with a sound redolent of both The Beloved and Reverend and the Makers, is heralded by the “ah yeahs” of a house track; and another standout, Devil and the Deed, turns into a speedy mash-up of skewed beats, electro noises and synth harpsichord. Yet the band manages to meld all the flotsam and jetsam deftly together, and even inject some heart and soul into a rather cold landscape.
Appreciating this album does admittedly require time and effort, which occasionally isn’t repaid – the old-school flavoured No Bones doesn’t quite work while the lyrics of Folk Hero Shtick’s attack on arrogant, talentless singers seem incongruous. But once you’ve settled into it, Yeasayer’s Fragrant World is a wonderful place to explore.