Review Summary: Skronk-Math Replica
Even the slightest refinements can render a gimmick an unparalleled forte. For all its mindboggling musicianship, Yowie’s debut Cryptooology
possessed alacrity that could easily exhaust anyone approaching it as an album and mercilessly communicated the band’s self-consciousness as if they were snickering as they wrung out each battered, springy riff. Track titles (“Trina”, “Tamika”, “Tenesha”, etc.) ran parallel to their scope-- minor variations on a theme garnering largely the same reaction. Though a blip-sized concept magnified to excessive proportions, Cryptooology
was a brilliantly studied crash course of no wave and avant-prog that, for better or worse, left listeners scratching their heads.
Damning with Faint Praise
, Yowie’s first full-length in eight years, is no less pummeling, but it works to closely examine each of its constituent influences, favoring even more challenging dissonance and countering it with… resignation? What once seemed like grooves in their own confounding tongue on Cryptooology Damning
translates through unburdened magnetism. Bear in mind that Yowie are characterized by complication, and these become flickers once thwarted by another jagged foray. Their catalog is a set of patterns that only they can follow, but for the first time it feels as though it demands frequenting.
Upon first encounter it can be agreed that there are too many nooks and crannies to Damning
to note without resulting in volumes of diminished chords, yet there remain movements that breach Yowie’s elastic and sharp niche. Easy to infer, “Whippersnapper” is impatient even by their standards. Its drums constantly expand and contract, maneuvering the band into pure schizophrenia. Guitarists Jeremiah Wonsewitz and Sr. (H), Jb frequently display jaunty interaction with one another. “Slowly But Surly” wiggles along a conversational guitar line and unfurls into laser-guided string-strangulation tactics, its only nod to melody being the harmonics colliding like magnets. Their timbres are isolated on “Shriners Sure Do Cuss A Lot” so as to illustrate their varying degrees of ugly, and abrasive upstrokes accent the culminating abuse of “Eternally Collapsing Object”.
Yowie even hinting at rock conventions is probably blasphemy to Skin Graftees, but it’s a necessary evil. Their first outing pulverized eardrums in half the time AIDS Wolf’s swansong did and called for innovation just as it ended. I hesitate to say that Damning
is short-winded, clocking in at under a half-hour just as its predecessor did, but the band has stretched its ingenuity across many interlocking phases and junctures, honing in on atonality, measuring its possibilities, and never plateauing. It’s less a comeback than it is a humble reinvention.