The follow-up to Yellow Ostrich's 2012 EP Ghost, Cosmos merges raw guitar riffs, lush atmospherics, brain-bending electro effects, sweetly ethereal harmonies, and earnest but unsettling lyrics. Engineered by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Superchunk, Sparklehorse) and mixed by Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.), the album saw its inception when singer/guitarist Alex Schaaf sketched out skeletal versions of his songs, then brought them to drummer/percussionist Michael Tapper to begin fleshing out beats and arrangements. Having delved into the work of early-Krautrock and 70's synth bands while on tour the previous year, Schaaf and Tapper set to broadening their sound with locked grooves and textures inspired by artists like Neu!, Kluster, and Kraftwerk. Throughout the album, Schaaf's fascination with Earth and beyond plays out both literally and as metaphor: there are songs like "In the Dark" (a stark and dreamlike meditation on the journey of NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts), as well as "Shades" (whose urgent guitar lines and frantic piano reflect the anxiety that Schaaf imagines many people felt upon seeing the first published photos of Earth and "realizing how small and insignificant we really are"). Although that fascination bears an undercurrent of lonely melancholy, Cosmos also achieves its own strange brand of bliss on songs like "How Do You Do It" (a joyfully woozy track whose bombastic chorus serves as a diatribe against self-delusion).
Limited-edition 6-song EP, available only through mailorder and at the band's shows. The image on the cover is an original painting by New York-based artist Graham Parks. Parks painted this image on a canvas comprised of 100 blank record sleeves; the band's website has 100 limited-edition copies of the EP packaged in pieces of the painting. A video of Parks painting the cover, accompanied by EP song samples, can be viewed here.
Strange land is the follow-up to the acclaimed album The Mistress, and is self-produced with engineer Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse). The mistress was also self-produced, and was made by singer/guitarist Alex Schaaf on his own, playing all the instruments. With multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper in the fold, Strange Land presents Yellow Ostrich fully formed, no longer a bedroom project, but rather now a full-fledged power trio.
The focal point of Yellow Ostrich's magnificent debut The Mistress is Alex Schaaf's tender, pleading voice. It's reedy and childlike, and on The Mistress it gets looped and layered, stretched, manipulated; it's stacked up several high and, most often, it's used as an instrument, fleshing out the empty spaces in his bare, searching songs. These songs exist within that push-and-pull, the allure of blind fantasy chased by the bitter sting of reality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in mary, a song that begins with optimism and encouragement but crests on a sudden, startling note of despair: "Mary, you are doing drugs don't you think we know?" Schaaf sings, crestfallen. The confrontation is followed by a crushing silence, before Schaaf's voice all six harmonizing iterations of it returns, a soothing cascade of sound. He sings only a single open syllable, but the meaning is clear: Schaaf's intention is not to judge it's to comfort.