Apparently described by Brant Bjӧrk as “The sickest desert group of all time”, Californian scene-setters Yawning Man are now, remarkably, in their 32nd year of existence. Latest album The Revolt Against Tired Noises (Heavy Psych Sounds) showcases the band’s talent to drift away with their adoring listeners across a dusty plain of companionship and innovation.
Opener ‘Black Kite’ is gorgeous, a grubby production allowing the wonderfully languid guitars to duel with a string section with all the ferocity of Dylan from the Magic Roundabout. It’s Haight Ashbury, it’s Woodstock, it’s the greatest trip a stoner groove has ever taken you on. The title track invites Gary Arce’s delightfully jaunty leadwork to make up for a lack of words: no howling, but chiming and dancing through the powerful, emotional rhythmic swell. ‘Skyline Pressure’, meanwhile, reaffirms the links to hippy Americana with a light, pleasing air directed by Mario Lalli’s fat basslines and Bill Stinson’s huge drums which nevertheless remain the backseat drivers. As a result, the band’s sound is sometimes complex while remaining utterly bewitching.
The ensuing ‘Grant’s Heart’ sees a rare vocal, from Lalli, and evokes comparison to Crosby Stills and Nash-style Country Folk: a pacier but delicate rhythm punctuated by more lush chords and dreamy harmonies. The intricate fretwork of ‘Violent Lights’ is dazzling but wistful, gently wailing, those drums a Prog thunder yet remaining in the distance. A delightful reworking of the band’s classic track ‘Catamaran’, made famous by worshippers Kyuss, is a lovely Summer breeze drifting through the languid smoke, blowing to a crushing chorus which is the heaviest thing on the album.
‘Misfortune Cookies’ showcases more of that emotive, trippy lead play which is the undoubted highlight here, but again the focus is never completely ripped away from a tight, booming rhythm section. This begins closer ‘Ghost Beach’ with a powerful, sparing drumbeat which maintains its structure for much of the track, whilst plaintive melodies have the paradoxical effect of lightening the air whilst giving the mood a poignant feel, the pulsating bridges howling a mournful elegy.
Stoner metal is a frequently maligned genre, oft being accused of tiredness and a lack of invention. Tell that to these guys. Despite advancing years the band’s sound is fresh, moving and insightful, creating joy and sadness with a wonderfully harmonised, chilled-out vibe. Full of charm and vitality, this is a beautiful return.