Dutch label Tonefloat defines itself as “a new wave of jazz,” but the new album from the trio YODOK III offers everything a classic post-rock fan might want: luxurious builds, crushing crescendos and the most cavernous guitar work this side of GY!BE. We are well aware that most reviewers reference that band when writing post-rock reviews, which is why we do it only when fitting.
Even a surface glimpse reveals the pedigree. This is a double vinyl album totaling four songs in length, with a running time of 90 minutes. The song titles are almost as long as the tracks, but they possess a poetry of their own. The best: “together we descend into this wreckage called heart.” Each track takes a while to build, but by the ending is absolutely devastating. It’s a good ten minutes before the drumming becomes overt on the opening piece; then again, that’s only halfway through the track. One suspects that this is an album best heard live, but if not, it’s a speaker album instead of a headphone album; otherwise, one would do serious damage to one’s ears, turning up the prologues and being crushed by the finales.
A unique combination of instruments creates an otherworldly aura. Guitar and drums are present as expected, but also amplified tuba and flugabone (marching trombone). By the fifteenth minute ( ! ) of “watching the stone of celestial flaw rush down”, the drumming has become frantic while the horns exude an unrattled calm. A couple minutes later, it’s all-out cacophony. The overall impression is of peace in the midst of chaos, a frustrated turbulence attacking, but not defeating, a centered mind. And then it’s time to flip the vinyl, to reset, to start again. For now, one may only procure a digital copy by purchasing the vinyl, a choice that may be financially foolish yet artistically wise, as it preserves the trio’s intention: one is meant to listen to these songs all the way through.
The very existence of such a product – long album, extended tracks, vinyl only – is a counter-proposal to the modern way of life. Industrialized humans are discovering that their free time is shrinking, their attention spans are fracturing, and their stress levels are increasing. Who has the time to listen to such a thing? one might ask. Who has the time to read a book? Who has the time to watch a sunset? And yet, hidden rewards await those with patience. Sure, one could fast-forward to the last four minutes of “in the realm of wander behold the fleeting shadows exclaim in delight” and enjoy the fullest section of the piece, but that would be like taking a picture of the aforementioned sunset instead of watching the sunset. In short, the accumulated sense of transcendence would be lost – in fact, imperceivable. This is a fact that GY!BE, YODO KIII and other slow-building, thick-timbred bands understand: the journey may not be the destination, but the destination is nothing without the journey.
By the end of the set, one realizes that one has experienced something profound. By allowing the music to unfold at its own pace, one has caught a glimpse of a different way of life, one in which time is subservient to flow. And so, perhaps this is free jazz after all: less a breaking of musical boundaries than a decision to ignore them altogether. As a result, YODO KIII has captured something deeper, even ancient, forging a spiritual connection through touch and breath. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 16 January