Thursday 25 November 2021

There Was a Yeti - Gravitational Waves (2021)

Country: Canada
Style: Post-Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 19 Nov 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | YouTube

I can't find much online about There Was a Yeti, but I'd certainly like to know more. The band may not even be a band, just one guy from Alberta, Canada; the location is a given, but that's about it. The only other absolute is that this is instrumental music. I'd call most of it post-rock, because it's aiming at creating soundscapes with what appears to be traditional rock instrumentation: guitar, bass and drums, though I'm pretty sure there are keyboards here too, even if they're not obvious all the time. Occasionally, it ventures into post-metal too, but that's far from consistent across an array of nine tracks that amount to a generous seventy minutes of music.

On the opener, Massif, that's done by heavying up the piece considerably, literally moving from its initial post-rock approach into a post-metal one. Sometimes, though, such as on the title track, it's a texture. This one's a post-rock song, but the post-metal crunch is added somewhat for effect into the background, as if whoever's playing the heavy stuff is in the next studio over with all the doors left open so that the sound clearly bleeds through. I like the contrast, with a softer echoey guitar noodling away as our foreground and the slightly subdued crunch behind it. I'm not convinced that I like it more than the softer songs on their own though.

Gravitational Waves is a long piece, exceeding ten minutes, but it still fades out if it still had more to tell if only there wasn't a time limit pressing. There's some intricate drumming right at the end of the song that particularly caught my attention and I wanted a lot more of that, but I wanted in vain. I should add that this isn't the only piece in double digits, Leviathan an epic closer indeed at fourteen minutes. The shortest piece here is Simulation, at four and a half, but it feels more like a calm interlude before things liven up considerably on Caligula's Favourite Pastime.

This is one of the heaviest songs on the album and it features a lot of intricate changes, so it could be categorised as instrumental progressive metal as much as post-metal. Boundaries do blur, but this one crosses it pretty emphatically. And that just makes me wonder who's actually playing the instruments because they deserve praise. Sure, the guitar is always at the forefront of everything that There Was a Yeti does, but there are some great moments not on the guitar, like the drums late in Gravitational Waves or the keyboard bookends to Simulation.

Talking of Simulation, it may be the shortest track here but it's easily my favourite. That keyboard intro is neat but, when the guitar takes over, it does so with the west African highlife tone that's a constant source of happiness to me. It's impossible for anybody's spirits not to be bucked up when listening to highlife and that works just as here too. This one's a jazzy piece as well, especially as it gets going, so it keeps us on the hop even as it's cheering us up.

And, even though I have a metal heart, I much prefer the softer pieces here mixing highlife guitar improvisations with jazzy beats. They're not particularly challenging, but Simulation and Renjo La and The Lion's Daughter are delightful. Sure, Renjo La does build for a while in its second half with power chords and drum fills, but it still does what it did, merely with an added layer of emphasis. I don't dislike the heavier pieces, but they don't feel anywhere near as free or natural. After only a single time through the album, I noticed that I was thinking about skipping forward through most of the heavier songs to get to the more introspective pieces. That's telling.

And so I think this is a 6/10. I enjoyed it and the talent on display by whoever's in this band is clear, but I can't past the feeling that I should have enjoyed some of it more than I did.

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