Yeasayer at CMJ; photo by Rebecca Smeyne
Abron Arts Center
Sunday, October 28
Their crowd: 25 people, maybe, stretched out among the narrow seats of a tiny L.E.S. theater on a yawning Sunday night. Their host: The Crown Point Festival, a three-week film/theater/music soiree portending the Lower East Side’s return to cultural glory. Their opening act: The Lady Detective, some sort of Alice in Wonderland/Nancy Drew theater piece that involved a great deal of campy dancing. Their companion: A tremendously overzealous smoke machine. Their aesthetic: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young gone psy-trance. Their appeal, in one snappy rock-critic line: For people who don’t like Animal Collective, they sound like what people who like Animal Collective claim Animal Collective sounds like. Enjoyable, for starters.
Brooklynites are evidently obsessed these days with tribal drum-circle quasi-mysticism shit, and while a few manage a splendid sort of knuckle-dragging caveman propulsion (Aa live is a trip, if you ain’t had the pleasure), most of these groups tend to sound like Enigma. Yes, “Return to Innocence” Enigma. Thing is, I like “Return to Innocence,” and hear pleasant echoes in Yeasayers’ organic-meets-alien mix of mesmerizing freak-folk drones and space-age gadgetry (keyboard/sampler setups that mimic dying whales, etc.). The whiz-bang electronic drums setup could use a bit of visceral, violent, analog Aa whoomph every once in a while, but while the quartet’s vocal harmonies on gala debut All Hour Cymbals sometimes melt lazily into an ambient yoga-studio glaze, onstage they’re sharp, loud, and sweetly bird-like—very large, razor-taloned birds. They cut through pretension and overzealous smoke machine effluvia alike. The jam is “Red Cave,” Cymbals’ big closer, an elliptical Kumbaya campfire chant that eventually strips down to a disarming a capella mantra:
I’m so blessed
To have spent the time
With my family
And the friends I love
In my short life
I have met
So many people I deeply care for
This sort of thing can play hell with your cynicism, whether your bag is AC, CSNY, or ELO. Perhaps the time to return to “Return to Innocence” has come.