As anyone who’s experienced a Yak performance can tell you, things rarely go to plan. Or to put it more accurately, there isn’t a plan to start off with. Dispensing with setlists entirely, the trio rely on a unique alchemy of feral energy and weird telepathy to conjure up a force-twelve storm where anything from deranged live-wire blues, dreamlike psychedelia and sprawling prog wig-outs can get dashed against the rocks.
Coming just over a year since their debut single ‘Hungry Heart’ was released – a period that saw their peerlessly thrilling gigs and an electrifying clutch of studio recordings earn Yak a reputation as the most exciting and talked about new act in the UK – the trio have channelled their ferocious live experience into an album – ‘Alas, Salvation’ – which shows that underneath all the chaos and unpredictability lay a beating heart of great melodicism and a hyperactively eclectic and inventive approach to making music.
Recorded with Pulp’s Steve Mackey, it’s a record that refuses to be pigeonholed or even sit still for more than half a verse. Constantly surprising and continually morphing into different sonic textures, it swerves and hurtles towards and around all manner of unexpected shifts, twists and left turns, frontman Oli Burslem’s synapses audibly fizzing as he crams as many ideas into the songs as they will take.
Recorded with the express purpose of being “really loud”, opener ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’ sets the tone for the first half of the album, barely pausing for breath before the two-pronged sonic attack of ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Use Somebody’. The swooning, strung-out country strum of ‘Roll Another’ emerges blinking from the wreckage before the angular collage of ‘Curtain Twitcher’ boots the album into the outfield again. ‘Take It’ weaves slinky, serpentine guitar lines around a mesmeric falsetto, whilst the impossibly excellent ‘Smile’ swaggers with curled lip menace before exploding into a frenzy.
If Yak really did want a record that weaved a multitude of elements and left the listener wonder what had just happened they couldn’t have chosen a better sign-off. “I don’t know even what kind of monster we’ve created,” concludes Burslem.