It took Yawning Man 19 years to release its first proper album, 2005′ Rock Formations, and only a few months after that to release another set, issued on the 10 inch single Pot Head. New Melbourne imprint Lexicon Devil, headed up by music industry veteran (and inveterate blogger) Dave Lang, collected both records for this Australian release, which if there’ any justice in this world, will break through to a much larger audience.
Yawning Man’ mid-“80s generator-driven desert parties in California are the stuff of legend – Brant Bjork (Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age) called them the greatest band he’ ever seen – their extended jams calling on everything from surf rock and “50s exotica to Krautrock and SST hardcore. Basically a duo, with Gary Arce on five string guitar and Alfredo Hernandez on drums, the band’ sound is supplanted by bass (Mario Lalli on the debut, Billy Cordell on the follow-up), keyboard and theremin. The two records fit well, though despite the short break between recordings, there’ a distinct difference in sound: Rock Formations is meditation to Pot Head‘ garage rock, though both descriptions over-simplify the band’s sound.
Listening to them play is like listening to a new genre of music. It’s the kind of experience that, as a music fan, leaves you aching to see the band live, or more unrequitably, to have seen the band live, back then. I hate throwing out names, but sometimes it’s the only thing to do – think of some inhuman beast that’s digested Calexico-esque Mariachi, John Fahey’s guitar meditations, Kyuss’s desert rock and the spaghetti westerns that made Ennio Morricone’s name, and then spat them out as something completely different and new. At the same time, this is simple, classic instrumental music. Surf rock. It’s pretty, subtle and clever. Original. Evocative. Non-conformist in the most beautiful and tough way, outlaw music? Maybe? If being able to think for yourself counts for something.
Throwing influences together is no thing these days, of course, but this is no dryly academic thesis or fey sampling of sounds. Tight and muscular, at times Hernandez drums with the metronomic regularity of Krautrock; at others, it seems he’ punctuating Arce’ rippling guitar lines at will. Arce conjures shapes with his guitar that are difficult to describe, but almost synaesthetic – you can see them, touch them. It’s a deceptively simple palette. Repetitive even. But there’ a toughness to it that belies the lightness of touch.