Well, I guess the era of good vibes in the Brooklyn underground is well and truly dead? Process, the debut record from Yvette, released last week by local label Godmode, might have swung the final axe. It’s one of the best debut records of the year, a concise yet epic collection of fearsome guitar sounds and locked-in beats that’s the work of Noah Kardos-Fein and Rick Daniel, two guys reaching for a scale way bigger than you’d think they could generate by themselves. It won’t make you remember a long-lost beach day, except maybe Normandy.
For those whose tastes veer exclusively melodic, “the best noise band in Brooklyn”, might scan like punchline more than compliment. But Process is a vivd record, a human record, one that puts up a gentlemanly umbrella to let you get past its shower of sparks. It sounds enormous and sort of terrifying in bits, but never mechanical or impersonal. You never lose sense of the people who made it. As it moves along, wonder grows that there were only two of them.
There’s a feel of early-00s Brooklyn here, sure. In places Yvette recall the unpredictable jags of Oneida, or the crazed cult hypnosis of Liars, not to mention the late 70s/early 80s bands who inspired those groups. Post-punk, no wave, industrial—these terms fit well enough. But let’s not get too caught up in this-or-that revival talk. Yvette take it further into the extreme than those older bands anyway, just on the pure inexplicable transgressive ugliness of the sounds they manage to get. Brooklyn should always be producing bands like this, bands who validate the all these out-of-the-way DIY spaces by sheltering stuff this unkempt.
Loud guitar bands often try to overwhelm a listener with walls of sound, swaddling them in drones. That approach has a limited appeal, its tactical downside being that even at a terrifying volume, a uniform drone can just as easily be boring as transcendent, or that what could have been a transcendent as a moment becomes boring as a mass. The greatest strength of Process is its refusal to settle on a default tone. The noises are abrasive and corroded, but amazingly varied within that description. The jackhammer of “Attrition” is completely distinct from the robo-apocalypse of “Absolutes” which is totally different than the siren-inside-an-about-to-crash-spaceship wail of “Cuts Me in Half”. The record is a 64-piece crayon box that somehow contains only metallics and differing shades of blood (fresh, dried, arterial).
Admiring weird, intense sounds is only part of it. There’s limited pleasure in a parade of screeches and grinds. Yvette make lots of other smart choices that use their noise blasts to accomplish something beyond just blasting. The songs are short and asymmetrical, with timing that’s hard to anticipate. They’ll lurch to a cliff’s edge then cut to black. (There’s a difference between laying down a dramatic mood and creating actual drama.) Vocally, Kardos-Fein doesn’t try to match the intensity of their instruments, doesn’t go for hardcore barks or death metal growls. There’s a weird, tranced-out serenity to his vocals most of the time. Instead of using screams as another brick in a wall the band has constructed to keep you out, it sounds like he’s inside open space, and that there might be room for you there too.
“Radiation” ends the album by suggesting an entirely new facet of the band, then splitting. (Yet another good trick!) There’s an unexpected warmth to that one, a suddenly fluid groove that complicates the intimidation factor of the other songs. It also kind of sounds like a power sander. Process isn’t one thing that you are supposed to get, then nod at. It’s a lot of things at once, all placed strategically for you to better discover.
There’s a risk of overstating the potential appeal in the record. For many, this stuff will be off-putting no mater how many colorful descriptions it might inspire. But if a few ear-straining moments is the price of inspiration, that seems fair enough to me.