If By Yes
Salt on Sea Glass
Most “experimental” music provides us with agglutinated monsters filled with bloated concepts and dirge-like melodies, or they simply release a virus into the world that causes both genital warts AND a crashed hard drive. This experimental collective has a much saner musical sensibility, and while they rely on Pro Tools, they come up with experiments that are actually listenable, reasonably melodic, and sung with the sort of solid professionalism that stays on key and hangs out with the click track. Formed by veterans of Cibo Matto (Yuka Honda) and That Dog (Petra Haden) and accompanied by guitarist “Shimmy” Shimizu from Cornelius, they lay down tracks that start with jingle jangly bells and chimes, but soon the guitars become soothing and not at all scary. If they’ve been toking on Swiss microtonals, they’ve hidden them cleverly behind the diatonic, and they provide an accessible, interesting collection that the non-specialist can appreciate.
David Byrne drops by on “Eliza” and adds a slight African touch to their sweetly sung love song that might trace from a Brill Building pop song. On “Three as Four,” a nice, dark, ambiguous lament forms and builds to solid and enthusiastic romance that has lead past IKEA and all the way to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It’s Haden’s vocals that sell this disc; her gentle contralto is perfect for the modern ballad and what passes for experimental tonight might have been a cool jazz backup 40 years ago. If By Yes experiments but stays within the bounds of reason. These are Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye grade challenges, and they leave the stinky smoke and banging-pots-in-the-garage sound to others. These folks have a bad case of high-quality pop sensibility — don’t let their intimidating cover art make you miss this tasty treat.
Chimera Music: www.chimeramusic.com