For their second album, Great Ytene went back to basics. They had no choice in the matter, for while they were recording a follow up to their well-received self-titled debut on Bella Union, all their music was lost.
‘A technological worm hole’ was the official reason given, and no doubt there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the time, but the four-piece, named after an Anglo-Saxon label for a dense part of the New Forest, maintain the clean slate worked in their favour. With an adjusted line-up, musical material taken from scratch and a new label to boot, they set about ‘Locus’, a term that refers to pinpointing exactly when a particular event took place.
It is a curious title, for much of the band’s music is based on distorted musical thought, reeking of 1960s psychedelia but also shot through with the familiar, insistent drive of Krautrock. As Mono Aware starts the album, the primal force of the rhythm gets plenty of thick, surround sound distortion, followed by a vocal that cuts through to the core.
And yet Great Ytene’s music is more original than that description implies. Whereas the music of their debut glinted at the edges, Locus is made of a darker, heavier material that comes from deeper in the soul. Wanness is the track to get closest to the heart, a clever play on words that leaves a lasting impression. Beginning with a striking guitar chime, it features a call to arms on the snare drum before the band go for broke with a huge rush of noise, drums and powerful vocals that bring it to a stunning climax. It is oneness indeed, a real blast of band solidity.
George Street reinforces the album’s links with the past with a sense of urgency, though the jangly guitars and weird psychedelia ensure the vocals are pushed far back in the mix. This is an issue on occasion, and it is as though vocalist Leon Diaper has made his contribution in another room, so big is the instrumental wall of sound. This makes the lyrics harder to hear, but the prevailing mood is always clear – in this sense calling to mind the music of Clinic in their earlier years.
There are intriguing edges to the band that still don’t quite fit – in a good way. The structures of their songs can be ragged but never outstay their welcome, and there are bass driven grooves such as Cruel Desires, taking on a leaner profile acknowledging the presence of Joy Division in a steely undercarriage. Electric Pulses has a comforting wide open production, though it has some nice jangly passages that sharpen the focus later on, ensuring that those who enjoyed the band’s first outing are not forgotten.
Locus, then, is an intriguing beast, one that enjoys experimentation but doesn’t forget to please its listener through driving rhythms, colourful sonics and powerful musical statements that might be derivative but are a sharp blow to the consciousness, especially if heard loud on headphones. Going back to basics has worked for Great Ytene, and with music like this they look capable of securing themselves a cult following.