The spectres of folk music’s past haunt Yesway‘s self-titled début album. While such a description might serve to paint these newly emergent songwriters as gothic miserablists, these spirits are very much benevolent ones, content to waft with a gleeful fervour out in the open air, before dissolving into dewy embers with the morning’s first light. Sounds float in and out of the mix with amorphous dexterity, as the band conspires to create music which is simultaneously lightweight and heady. Despite the fact that this self-titled LP contains all of the trace elements of folk music, this is something more expansive and more adventurous than just folk. More specifically, this is an album which cleverly accentuates folk music’s proclivities for hushed ambience, working as it does to maximize the harmonics-brushing qualities and intimate spaces of the genre.
The band, consisting of Emily Ritz and Kacey Johansing, hail from Colorado and New York respectively. Listening to their refined and introverted music, it seems obvious that the band’s musical aesthetic owes more to the murmuring wilderness of the rockies, rather than the gridlocked hustle and bustle of city life. These tracks feature chiming gamelan-style percussion, some extremely subtle uses of electronic sounds, and tasteful guitar picking. Yesway’s unique ability to make the most rudimentary musical passages sound bewitchingly pretty is due to their skills as arrangers of sound. Blending together a wide and disparate range of instrumentation, Yesway blurs musical lines in order to create an ever-shifting fluidity of resonances. In fact, it’s rather difficult to tell apart the band’s organic instrumentation from their array of artificial, synthesized sounds. The lyrics, sung in an inflected form of English, dutifully play up to this sense of other-worldliness and serve to cast the listener further adrift. Over the course of these 40 minutes, Yesway casts a pleasantly disorientating musical spell over the listener.
‘Howlin’ Face’ briefly ruptures the meditative, levitating quality of the LP, featuring as it does a middle-section that breaks out into some tentative club beats. This sudden musical turn of phrase proves a slightly jarring moment, interrupting the placid sense of cohesion that the previous tracks had expertly built up. Despite this stylistic blip, the second half of the album branches out the band’s sound much more seamlessly, with the likes of ‘Heart Does Not Lie’, which contains a horn section that is gently ushered in to the mix by the ebb and flow of cymbal noise.
Yesway has crafted here a glossy, digitalized realization of the analog folk music of the past. At the same time, this is much more than a simple marriage between electronica and acoustic music, ala the kind of music which has been hastily assembled under the ‘folktronica’ genre. With their hushed innovations and gently lulling sound, Yesway threatens to sneak their entrancing music under the radar – out of sight, but certainly not out of mind.