Yeasayer album All Hour Cymbals entered the Pitchfork list of 200 albums of this ending decade which is, considering the number of albums released in ten years, quite an achievement. Expectedly the Pitchfork choice is based on the analogy they found to their passions, TV On the Radio, Animal Collective and the other Brooklyn bands who are experimenting one way or the other the mixture of traditions with electronics, eclecticism with pop melodies.
I haven’t removed All Hour Cymbals from my playlist since I discovered it, more than two years ago now. It is rare that an album, after so many listenings, is still capable to disclose something unexpected. It is an endless revelation. Playing the CD is like entering into a big castle helped by a laser beam. A beautiful room after another discloses with all their multicultural object.
The album is a strong experimental project retaining a delightful pop edge, spiced up by remote, unexpected influences. The success of their first single, 2080 defied the gravity laws showing that this mix is not only possible but works so beautifully to induce Talking Heads reminiscences in several listeners.
That the band is part the other Brooklyn projects I named above (Grizzly Bear could be another of their myspace friends) is obvious. I found surprising that their relationship with Akron/Family went missing.
Listen to Germs or Ah, Weir. They are the perfect examples of how the Akron/Family ability of inserting folky influences in a psichedelic infuse music, originating from the Buddhist philosophy of the Far East, has been adopted by Yeasayer to get to a different result.
If Akron/Family North American folk is permeated by obsessive mantras filtrated through John Lennon melodies; Yeasayer flower blossoms in Brooklyn with its roots dipped into the exotic scales and hectic rhythms of the Middle East.
They add sensual rhythms and sunset vibes to their electro-grooves. Where Akron/Family provides the soundtrack of your subway journey to get to your hour of Zen meditation, Yeasayer offer the ticket to get to your belly dancing class next door.
A sounds in Wait For The Summer are difficult to understand whether recorded in a market street in Beirut, a hi-tech studio in Manhattan or delivered straight from an outer planet through an unknown wireless protocol.
I wasn’t intending to do a track by track review of the album but I can’t resist to link some of their songs to share the amazing ability of these guys to cross the music planet from East to Western Waves and then ride them back to an Eastern Red Cave. Inside it is packed with voices that bring the listeners’ imagination closer to places we dream (or fear) without knowing.
Despite I know All Hour Cymbals by heart, it is only when the five guys come to the stage to support Bat For Lashes’ (!?) Autumn’s tour that I realize I have never visualized them.
Chris Keating is the singer. Both physically and for his stage presence he reminds me of the National singer Matt Berninger to the point that I double checked on Wikipedia they are not brothers! With such a Brooklyn invasion you never know. He also plays a keyboard responsible of the quirky synth effects.
On the back a bearded guy with a wool hat sit at the drums. His style is so relentless and he is so convincing that doesn’t look tired to bring the rhythm from the springs of river Euphrates to the Western Africa shores on a dromedary caravan through the Sahara desert. All in just 40 minutes.
Next to the drum kit a black guy is surrounded by a plethora of instruments on the back of the chaotic stage. He could fit on TV On The Radio line-up. Among his vast choice of sound-producing devices he goes for some keys and a digital drum machine. Layers of electronic percussions mixed up with the exotic drummer create the fertile soil for the Yeasayer flower to blossom.
The music is intoxicating. I am distracted by the amount of ideas, polyrhythms, unpredictable twists each song takes.
Nonstop, up and down the earth plus some intergalactic excursions with the sensation of being at the same time, everywhere. Dematerialized.
On the front line, to the right the bass player manages to add funky loops that almost touch on my few dub reminiscences. His pulse is the hearth of the music, and, like the music, it is an unpredictably beating heart. It switches from melody to dissonance, from love to anxiety. Bent over the four strings his soul vibrates with those sounds. The magic takes shape.
On the front left the other key element of Yeasayer. Visually he is the memorable one, Anand Wilder. Raven Black hair frame bright, intense eyes that reveal ancient, dominant genes warmed up by the Mediterranean sun. He is with a Rickenbacker and another keyboard. Dressed into a camouflage uniform place himself in war zone. The guitar replaces the rifle and the results, you know, is known since Woody Guthrie wrote on his machine.
Wilder notes are bullets for the ears. The sound of a souk with a revolutionary attitude. Comfortable inside his overall he whips the ingredients of a spiced music mayo that only under New York City sky can blend without breaking down.
A phenomenal concert.
A marginal observation. Marginal because during this 40 minutes’ journey along four continents and a couple of extraterrestrial explorations the set list is a detail so irrelevant not even the band had it anywhere on stage. I am pretty sure Yeasayer played some new stuff which sounded great and hopefuly will be part of the long waited new album due in 2010. If All Hour Cymbals made the Pitchfork top 200 list album of this decade (and top 50 of 2007) they deserve a much better position for the next. I am looking forward to it.
There is a small object, much cheaper than any gear used at gigs that should be always mounted on your lenses.
It saves money, it saves pictures. A Lens Hood.
It seems a silly advice, follow me and I will give you enough reason to go out there and spend few coins on it.
A lens hood first aim is intended to protect lenses from side lights that, especially on zooms and lenses with many elements can give rise to a quite nasty lens flare. It looks something not that important until you realize it ruined your favourite photo.
At concerts most of the light come from the top and the side of the stage which are the worst to affect the results. On average a lens provided with the right hood delivers crispier, more saturated images minimizing the foggy effect caused by these lights.
One common belief must be clarified. Even a lens hood can do nothing if the source of lights came straight through your glass.
In that backlights situation the only option you have passes through your wallet. A very good lens with an excellent coating.
The other thing affecting lens flare is the number of glass-air interfaces the light need to pass to get to the sensor (or the film). Less lenses is better hence prime lenses are better than zooms.
Now you know one more reason why I am not giving up film photography. To keep using the wonderful performance of Carl Zeiss T* primes with backlights and generally difficult light conditions.
Second, more important then your photos is your gear. A lens hood is also there to protect your front lens from undesired hits, scratches, greasy hands, beer and water splashing around, flying objects not counting flying teenagers!
There is a long standing debate among photographers about what is better between a UV filter or a lens hood. In concert photography I don’t have doubt: lens hood. No need to add another glass a real need of preventing flare
The last bit of this tip for the pit (nice one, uh?) is which lens hood to opt for.
Rigid or soft?
If it is provided with the lens, there is no point, use that one unless you are really after something special. Usually they are rigid which mean a better protection of your front glass, a bit less comfortable when mounted no difference on preventing flare.
If you are buying one, the soft rubber ones are cheaper, don’t need to be mounted or unmounted to put camera in the bag but are less secure on protecting your lens. I use this but my lenses are rock solid, bullet proof.
Wide or Narrow?
This is important. To avoid the lens hood to enter the field of view of the lens and cause vignetting it needs to have the right shape and length. For telephotos it is not really an issue, being their viewing angle very small, with wide angles you need a special one, it is written on the box, so read it carefully and don’t use beyond the suggested lens focal length.
Last I have a question for you. I don’t know which is the advantage of the flower-shaped lens hood now supplied as standard with zooms. Do you?