When they formed in 1979 around the core of Stuart Argabright (bass / vocals), Kenneth Compton (bass / vocals), Fred Szymanski (synths / programming) and Michael Diekmann (guitar), electronic / post-punk band Ike Yard were initially associated with New York’s then burgeoning No Wave scene. Indeed, their earlier performances saw them making use of found percussion such as scrap metal before 1982 saw them refining their sound into a more stripped back and minimalist direction that saw the group using four synthesisers on stage.
While Ike Yard’s initial incarnation saw the band dissolving during 1983, during their short lifespan they managed to release the only album on the shortlived Factory America label, 1982’s ‘A Fact, A Second’, a record that has had substantial influence upon scores of subsequent post-punk and minimal wave producers. After a lengthy hiatus, 2007 saw the original band line-up reforming minus Szymanski, with this latest incarnation going on to finally release a follow-up album ‘Nord’ in 2010. Three years on from their preceding ‘Remixed’ collection which saw the likes of Arnaud Rebotini and Regis reworking Ike Yard’s backcatalogue, the band describe this latest EP on Noiztank ‘Sacred Machine’ as being recorded in the style of a rehearsal.
Whatever the case, there’s certainly a lot of divergence in both style and mood between the five new tracks collected here. ‘Night Klub’ whirs open with a wash of buzzing ambient noise before glittering rapid-fire drum machines lock in around tribal percussion and angular bass runs, Argabright’s half-spoken vocals taking on a mantra-like feel as the background electronics surge into a rush of industrial noise and the staccato hi-hats accelerate into a shimmering blur. More than anything else, it recalls Joy Division by way of Alan Vega as it glides down its gritty nocturnal highway, and in many senses it’s the track here that’s most immediately reminiscent of Ike Yard’s early work.
By contrast, ‘Sacred Machine’ sees the trio conjuring eight minutes of dark ambience that feels more geared towards an art installation, Argabright’s treated vocals taking on an almost choral feel as they drift through poisonous layers of dark bass synth drones, buzzing distortion and distant industrial crashes, eerie melodies rising into focus at the very edges. If it’s easily the spookiest moment here, recalling Bauhaus gone ambient / dub at points, ‘Tear Drop’ lays down this EP’s most streamlined dancefloor centred grooves as Tropic Of Cancer’s Camella Lobo contributes eerie siren vocals to a backdrop of propulsive minimal techno rhythms and soaring string textures that hints at Radiohead’s more drum machine anchored moments as it fuses glittering synthetic rhythms with a melancholic sense of orchestral sweep. While Ike Yard often sound as though they’re going in several directions at once on ‘Sacred Machine’, their explorations yield consistently interesting results.