Yodok III ~ This Earth We Walk Upon

This Earth We Walk Upon has a lot in common with last week’s Super Bowl.  Nothing happens for quite a long time, leaving the highlights bunched up at the very end.  But after analysis, we realize that a lot was happening in those early moments ~ we were simply misdirected, looking for thrills rather than for talent.  In the Super Bowl, the quiet component was the defense.  For Yodok III, it’s the build.

We are living in an age of attention deficit.  Revisiting my review of The Sky Flashes, The Great Sea Yearns, I reach the uncomfortable conclusion that my own attention span has shortened in the last four years.  Back then, I wrote about the hidden rewards of patience.  On that album, tracks began to explode midway.  On this album, the action lies in the final third.  To be fair, this album won’t be for everybody.  The single-track album is 63 minutes long.  It’s hard not to fast-forward, and I’ve played the finale many more times than the whole.  But I’ve enjoyed the finale more when I’ve played the album straight through.  Ironically, our friends at Echoes and Dust prefer the first third while we prefer the last.  We need one more blog to chime in with their support of the middle third, and we’ll have a full set.  This clip includes part of the quiet and part of the loud:

 

One can appreciate the arc a bit better when one realizes that this is a live recording (Norway, 2016).  The trio (Dirk Serries, Kristoffer Lo and Tomas Järmyr) knows exactly where it is going, starting with wine and ending with coffee.  Eventually the project will set a record for dynamic contrast, but it’s easy to miss how much happens early.  At first it’s just a few notes, taps of percussion and wide open spaces.  After a quarter hour, those spaces begin to fill in.  The progression is nearly imperceptible, but a great distance is traveled from silence to sound.  In the 20th minute, the drums begin to sound more like a song than a warmup – but shy, remaining in the foyer as light drones hum about the main room.  Larger chords begin to appear in the 26th minute, along with more insistent drums.  In the 30th, the tuba clears its throat and makes a statement.  This is the lovely part we might have missed had we not been patient enough to let the story unfold at its own pace.  Approaching the two-thirds mark, we begin to anticipate that something special is about to happen.  We just don’t know how far the band will go.

At this point, we’d like to send a special shout-out to cover artist Juliane Schütz.  She’s the reason this album is being reviewed.  We went back and forth about it, but couldn’t get the image out of our heads.  Finally we realized that we had to cover it, pun intended.  The image eventually sparked engagement.  It reminds us of a scene from a monster movie, although we can’t (yet) see the monster.  Turns out the monster is hiding in the music.

The turning point arrives at 51:33, signaled minutes earlier with a steady buildup of drums.  From this point on, it’s all-out chaos.  The drummer bashes, the guitars squall, the storm descends.  Most of this falls outside the boundaries of the clip above, so let’s just say if you like the end of the clip, you’ll love what comes after.  In one sense, the decision not to stream this is laudable, akin to an action movie preview that doesn’t include pieces of the climactic battle.  On the other, it may be frustrating for fans wanting to know what they are getting into.  Is a game worth watching if all the scoring is at the end?  Is a book worth reading if the tension bursts in the final chapter?  Is a movie worth seeing if the final scene contains all the action?  For us, the answer is yes ~ we entered reluctantly, but after settling in, we were glad we came. (Richard Allen)

Available here

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