Yes U – Devastations

Label: Beggars Banquet

So, who stole the sun from Devastations’ heart? Alright, granted, last year’s sophomore album ‘Coal’ wasn’t exactly KC & The Sunshine Band. It was maudlin to its weeping core, contemplative, indulgent, but it was all of this set to a dusky sunset, life and hope existing just over the horizon, comfort found in poetry, occasional catharsis found via the distortion pedal. It was latter-day Nick Cave on keys and in the confessional, Johnny Cash and Chris Isaac looking after the steady blue ambience. But ‘Yes, U’, if the following morning, is the day the sun wouldn’t come up. Where there was warm glow and long shadows, there is now a cold, black, near-featureless landscape with unidentified movement just outside your peripheral vision, the occasional flickering strip of neon providing some glimmers of illumination.

“Amputees, they all aggrieve, and they would like their arms and legs back,” emotes Conrad Standish grimly during ‘Rosa’ over restless, claustrophobic drums and a curious, cautionary guitar, moments before unleashing a threatening welter of red-eyed feedback and noise, working its way towards a drawn out Armageddon climax, clawing at your ear canals and impregnating you with seeds of despair. This album is the almost exact opposite of aromatherapy oils. There should possibly be some sort of warning on the label – exceeding sensible dosage may induce irreversible paranoia. Or suchlike. “I thought I buried you, way back in my past,” he continues, under his breath (‘The Pest’). See? It is however a thrilling, near hypnotic experience at times, one that rarely drops its mask. 

While Nick Cave remains a commanding spectre, it is only his extreme gothic and slowly-but-sinisterly traits that inform ‘Yes, U’. It’s really much more enslaved to 80s minimalism, krautrock, Can, Neu! It’s an album that’s frugal with its emotion to say the least, and its cold dislocated narratives are echoed chill for chill by the cruel precision of the musical backing. ‘Oh Me, Oh My’ most closely resembles their old selves, though slowed down to a dense funereal dirge, the deep bass like a low register pulse. ‘As Sparks Fly Upward’ is a bond between their old and new; icy, high key synthesised atmospherics and a heavy, dry, organic rhythm section driving forth. It’s both ethereal and resolute. The album ends on ‘Misericordia’, a decidedly Can-esque pin-drop hall of mirrors piece of instrumental avant garde, which would have previously seemed confusingly off-piste, but in this context is the perfect bow on top of a thoroughly unsettling 10 tracks.

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Release: Devastations - Yes U
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Released: 26 September 2007