by Jesse Popeski
On Yes We Mystic’s sophomore album Ten Seated Figures, Winnipeg quintet (or are there ten of them?) create an album that is broad and epic in sound and concept.
The band describe their current development as a “sonic landscape…brimming with sounds that are unidentifiable, but still created with the same instruments Yes We Mystic has always used.“ The band achieve this texture by contrasting acoustic and electronic instruments in consistently creative and unexpected ways.
In “Panthalassa,” the jarring electronic buzzes of the verse give way to the warmth of strings in the chorus; the roles are reversed in “Young Evil,” where the strings evoke psychological turmoil over a repetitive electronic backdrop. “Felsenmeer” best exemplifies the blending of these elements into a cohesive sound as piano, strings, guitars, drums and electronics interact behind singer Adam Fuhr’s emotional vocals.
The drums serve a particularly important role in the sound of the album, with the off kilter groove of the opening track “Uniform” contributing to the disorientation that recurs as a theme in the lyrics. Sonically, the drum kit and electronic drum sounds contribute to the vastness of the album’s sound, with percussion hard panned to one side of the spectrum or the other to add breadth.
While the instrumentation and arrangements make the music distinct and unique, one of the attractive aspects of the music is how it still feels like a rock band performing together, with guitar driven songs and distorted, melodic solos, like the climactic end of “Last Known Sighting.” Upon first listen, the acoustic and electronic wall can seem daunting, but further listens reveal standard verse-chorus song structures with earworms like the refrain of “Vanita’s Waltz.” The standard song structures never feel obvious because of the band’s knack for arrangements that shift rhythms, instrumentation and dynamics from section to section.
The overall concept of the album, described by Fuhr as being “about memory…and different ways in which we can remember the same event, see the same event, distort the same event in our mind and how it can change who we are,” comes across best when the words are clearest; in “Italics,” the line “I can feel a sickness forming” is mirrored in the swelling strings. At times it is difficult to understand the lyrics, which can obscure the thought-provoking concept the band is trying to explore. Perhaps this ambiguity is deliberate, achieving Yes We Mystic’s ethos as “the kind of art that is loud in its motivation and subtle in its truths.”
Recommended if you like Crystal Palace, Sundays from 12:00am – 6:00am