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Yellow Swans, "At All Ends"

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Texture is as important as ever to Yellow Swans on their new album, but this time their typical noisy elements are put to a different task. Still using gritty walls of distortion generated through guitar, voice, and electronics, Yellow Swans also add a melodic touch to these shape-shifting songs. The result is an unexpectedly gorgeous album unlike anything I've heard from them before.



The title track begins things as a miasmic cloud that seems to get louder and louder as it drifts, infecting soft pink tissue everywhere it spreads. Yet the song takes a heroic turn toward melody in the final three minutes, altering the landscape altogether. They channel interstellar communication with "Stretch the Sands," alien and intriguing yet not relying on pervading doom to introduce a new exoticism. Then they blast things wide open with "Our Oases," a touching supernova of washed out guitars and collapsing vocals. It runs obliviously into the sun before being swallowed by a bleating bass blurp.

The group makes use of symphonic distortion on the grainy yet uplifting "Mass Mirage." It's a surprisingly effective piece, a mood I wouldn't have expected from this group previously and a welcome surprise. Contemplative guitars hover against a background of subtly changing alarms on "Endlessly Making an End of Things" before sudden blasts of bass send the unwary listener scrambling for cover in a white noise nuclear panic. Dual guitars solos race the album into the ground.

Discrete and distinct, each of the songs here shows a developed maturity. The recording has all of the grit I have come to expect from them, but they also venture into emotional realms I never figured they would explore. With their shift toward melody, Yellow Swans' compositional skills have come to the fore. An elevating and hypnotic album of uncommon beauty, it's the sort of thing I never expected to hear from this noisy duo but am thankful I did.




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