[MYSTERY BEATS] YACHT has always played with contrasts. Jona Bechtolt was accessible long before his music was, smiling and chatting with fans before, after and sometimes during shows. In the early days he gave funny names to fucked-up beats and complemented what seemed like willfully impenetrable recorded material with theatrical and often hilarious live performances.
On new release See Mystery Lights, Bechtolt and new co-conspirator Claire Evans keep the juxtapositions coming. The duo has narrowed its focus with such laser-specificity that it only takes eight songs (plus a couple of remixes) to define its current disparity: The beats are more accessible than ever, even as YACHT's message moves further out of the mainstream.
The resulting album opens with two meditations on religion. "Ring the Bell" asks, "Will we go to heaven or will we go to hell?" before explaining tentatively over an electropical hook, "It's my understanding that neither are real." Bookending the disc's opening existential crisis is "The Afterlife," which complicates YACHT's first answer: "It may come as a surprise, but you are not alone," Evans says with an elegant, upper-crust drawl. We're left a little confused, but nodding emphatically to the beats.
YACHT spends as much time talking as singing on See Mystery Lights, largely trading the glitch-soul of 2007's I Believe In You. Your Magic is Real. for a wobbly and mathematical Talking Heads sensibility. "It's Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want" reminds of David Byrne rattling off locales on the Heads' "Cities," where YACHT's "Psychic City" runs on pulsing nerd-funk that nearly outdoes its spiritual ancestor, "Once in a Lifetime." While "Psychic City" is the album's standout track (and first single), it serves a deeper purpose: It'll pull a whole new group of fans into YACHT's wonderful, if mysterious, world. CASEY JARMAN.
[THE ELECTRONIC CELLO PROJECT] If the opening strain of Hide and Go Hustle's debut self-titled EP sounds a bit familiar, it's because the instrumental combo—led by guitarist and beatsmith Mike Moore and cellist Catherine Odell (the Portland Cello Project, Horse Feathers)—tread nearly the same stylistic ground as another beats-and-classical music instrumental act from Portland: the much-lauded Talkdemonic.
It's hard to shake that familiarity on first listen. But this is no tribute act: While many of Talkdemonic's pieces are short, quick-hitting two-minute bursts, HGH crafts songs that—largely without the emotional touch of a human voice—contain the narrative build and break of a swelling sea.
Album highlight "Monster" doesn't need words to express an overwhelming sense of dread—it's littered with sampled sounds, from an ominous opening scream to the crash of breaking glass. All the while Odell's cello rides a skittering, harsh beat that's held in check only by the closing martial drums (played live by Benjamin Jaspers of Alan Singley and Pants Machine) and plucks of a high-pitched guitar that flutter like a firefly at a lamppost.
A few of the EP's tracks are based around these clunking, pre-Y2K beats, and they're the songs that hit hardest. "Riot in the Ranks" clangs with a rudimentary mechanical groove that contrasts with the mournful cello and Moore's impassioned guitar bursts. "If Chins Could Kill" will blip-bleep its way onto the playlists of anyone who still remembers the Postal Service; it's the poppiest thing here, and the one track that's really screaming for a vocal melody. The rest of the EP is just fine without one. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
on Thursday, July 16, at City Hall with Y La Bamba and Point Juncture, WA. 5:30 pm. Free. All ages. Hide and Go Hustle releases its self-titled EP on Thursday, July 16, at Holocene with Paper/Upper/Cuts and Breakfast Mountain. 9 pm. $5. 21+.