Yeasayer will release their anticipated new album Fragrant World on 20 August 2012 on Mute, the follow up to 2010’s crossover hit Odd Blood. Having set the internet alight with the teaser track ‘Henrietta’ last month, as well as Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Record In The World Right Now’ on Radio 1, the psychedelic experimentalists from Brooklyn are set to make an assured return with their most accomplished album to date.
Odd Blood was widely regarded as one of the best albums of 2010, hitting everyone’s end of year lists including NME, Mojo, Q, Uncut, The Fly and The Sunday Times. It took Yeasayer from the warm embrace of the Brooklyn scene straight into the mainstream with playlists on Radio 1, 6 Music and Xfm as well as gracing the covers of The Fly, Guardian Guide and more.
A hard act to follow, certainly, but Fragrant World does not disappoint. Produced once again by Yeasayer themselves (and mixed by Dan Carey), it is a wholly immersive record. Keyboards clank and wheeze, tiny claps stumble against busted drum machines, and there's very little obvious guitar. It is an album that grapples with the schizophrenia of the modern world by gathering piles of electronics and moulding them into something vast and rather gorgeous.
After touring endlessly in support of Odd Blood, Chris Keating, Ira Wolf-Tuton and Anand Wilder holed up in Gary's Electric Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to record Fragrant World. While Odd Blood played with electronic textures and future paranoia, Fragrant World fully immerses itself in those themes, virtually dripping with anxiety, love and concern for the world. Keating’s vocal is as idiosyncratic and affective as ever, and sometimes, like on ‘Longevity’, piling so many effects on his voice that the music takes on an otherworldly sheen. In direct contrast are Wilder's vocal contributions, which hover serenely over droning synths on ‘Blue Paper’ and later weave in and out of staccato beats and what sounds like a vintage computer dying, on ‘Devil and the Dead’.
Across Fragrant World's 11 tracks, genre mashing is taken from a broad spectrum of sources; updated takes on dusky pop, jittery funk, exotic keyboard experimentation, haunting whirs of backward organ, exuberant bass; "I wanted to make a record that was legitimately, to use a bad word, funky" Chris Keating told Under the Radar magazine. Even at its darkest, that statement holds true. On their first single and album centre piece ‘Henrietta’ Keating is in great form. The track is loosely based on Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cells were cultured by a doctor in the 1950s without her permission. Those cells would later go on to be the most commonly used human cell line for medical research. Keating teases out universal ideas from bizarrely specific moments in history, repeating the refrain, we will live on forever, referencing Lacks' story directly, contrasted against a darkly optimistic world view.
It is a testament to their sound and the unique identity they've carved out for themselves in the music community. They have managed to grow and expand into what they are now without losing touch with what made them so compelling in the first place; their willingness to pull from every musical source imaginable. Whether it's the warped and clipped alien-dancefloor banger ‘No Bones’, or the gothic, almost industrial pulse of ‘Reagan's Skeleton’, Yeasayer are truly making 21st century music. Couched in healthy fear, yet unafraid to move forward and expand, pulling in new influences just as frequently as new worries, Yeasayer have created a dense and beautiful record. It is as much a synthesis of the last three decades of pop music as it is a way of dealing with the oddities of life.
Yeasayer will be in the UK for Latitude this summer, with a string of UK dates to be announced soon