Yawning Man - Nomadic Pursuits
Record Label: Cobraside
Release Date: July 13, 2010
Time and time again I have come to a realization. No matter how many times I want to skim through new artists or albums I discover, it becomes apparent to me as I give them a longer listen and deeper experience that one cannot accurately judge an album based on anything less than the whole. Yawning Man's latest album, Nomadic Pursuits, has once again brought this fact to my awareness. Listening to this album is like taking a trip in the mythological delorean. Hailing from a 1986 California, it becomes apparent to the listener that Yawning Man and their work belong in a different time. Because of an odd shift in musicianship prompting a name change and preventing them from releasing any material until 2005, Yawning Man have stowed away in the delorean on the way back. The fruit of their ingenuity has been thrust into the future where, ironically, it seems to belong: nestled right up against the modern post-rock scene.
The intriguing conundrum Nomadic Pursuits presents doesn't stop at the bizarre time warp I noted above. The ambience it creates makes that wholly irrelevant, turning it into little more than an interesting hook for my own devices. It transcends time into a zone-out world all its own, shaped into different atmospheres and imagery with each track. Although Yawning Man use select few instrumental mediums on their treks through the desert in search of art, they make exceptional albeit imperfect use of them, as detailed below.
The opener, "Camel Tow", could easily be seen as one of Yawning Man's flagship songs, perfect for a nightly cruise through the desert on a clear night. The high and low melodic alternation in the catchy guitar sequence present throughout the track creates a hypnotizing wave in the listener's mind. "Sand Whip" takes a more active approach, with a quick-paced rhythmic guitar line layered behind Yawning Man's signature ambient and distorted riffs. At this point the listener becomes aware of the simultaneously active and supportive role the percussion takes on the album. There are many interesting fills and tempo shifts, despite its main role as a pace keeper.
If you think the bass is lost behind all these cool lead riffs, you're only halfway correct. "Far Off Adventure" seeks to prove the instrument's importance with an awesome opening groove, but it is quickly set on the back burner with the production. It makes numerous reappearances throughout the album but never remains a complete constant amongst the layers. The pace slows down again with "Blue Foam", implementing a slow build, and "Ground Swell" gives the first real opportunity on the album for the percussion to shine on its own. Despite the temptation, don't disregard "Camel Tow Too" just because it's a second version of the opening track. There are several alterations which make this version enjoyable in its own right, most notably the higher tones which give the whole track a new atmosphere, and the more climactic finishing riffs. "Laster Arte" finishes off the album with a slow yet dense jam.
I had to take a lot of time to really absorb every aspect of this album, so I suggest you as the listener do the same. Occasionally we see artists who for one reason or another don't end up releasing material for a great amount of time. In the case of Yawning Man, I can't help but wonder how much more of an impact they would have had on the ambient scene if their music had been released earlier, reaching and inspiring young sets of ears everywhere to progress it. However, what's done is done, and we finally have widespread access to their genius. If you’re a post-rock fan looking for a new spin on ambient music, give Nomadic Pursuits a spin or ten. It might inspire you in a new way.