Sunday, July 26, 2009

Skeleton Crew Quarterly Reviews Afternoon Birds Of Arima

Many thanks to SCQ for reviewing YAMS' latest album Afternoon Birds Of Arima:

SCQ Rating: 80%

From the moment I hear the first lilting piano notes of Afternoon Birds of Arima, it’s a knee-jerk reaction for me to recall You Are My Symphonic (AKA Vishal Kassie)’s evolution to date. Moving from found-sound folk – at first traditional (Through the Forest With My Love), then more ambitious (Let Ring Indefinitely) – to laptop-based songwriting (often bordering on electronica and post-rock), Kassie’s is a discography that would tongue-tie most. Yet two years after This is January, the recording that found him toying with loads of synths and greater production, You Are My Symphonic returns with Afternoon Birds of Arima, a largely instrumental mood-piece written to soundtrack his friend’s wedding. As if it needs to be said, Kassie has thrown the ace of all double-takes.

If in doubt, listen to the opening title track; a fourteen minute splash of cinematic ripples all padding off the parameters of his piano-coda and cresting back into itself. With each pillow-soft collision and expertly timed six-string echo, ‘Afternoon Birds of Arima (Opening Credits)’ seems to puff out its chest, growing not out of pomposity, but out of grace. That its fourteen minutes feels like three is merely a footnote when ‘Almost Time (Flower Girls)’ ushers in, carrying those aforementioned piano arpeggios into a virtual cascade of saintly synths and low-end keys. As with the opening couplet from
This is January, these tracks are halves to a whole; suites which together either invoke sweet memories or capture new ones. A much-needed reprieve is found in ‘Painted Lines (The Bride)’ as Kassie ditches much of his palette and lets silence play its key role in a bell-chiming aisle-walk that paves way for the album’s most emotional apex, ‘Walk Out With Me’. Whereas This Is January negated some of its impact by stressing its own presence with conflicting styles, Afternoon Birds of Arima’s singular focus gives credence to these occasional heaves of drama. In other words, we embrace the warmth and anticipation of these movements as if we’re at the chapel, hillside, beach or city hall; breathing in those moments of forever, whether they prove to last or not. If there’s a fracture in the focus, it’s last track ‘Rainfall in Arima (Closing Credits)’, which despite remaining true to the album’s tone and progression, seems like an unforeseen epilogue after the church-bell close of the preceding track. Maybe that’s just me getting caught up in the imagery though; after all, the track boasts an unexpected but smooth vocal performance by guest Anna Farago that wraps things nicely.

Now a word on weddings: we know nearly half of them fail, that they take up our weekends, that open-bar is the greatest draw and small-talk among extended family is tantamount to Chinese water torture. Yet we can also recognize that indescribable feeling of watching two people you thought you knew well, standing in front of each other as unnerved and flushed as first-date romancers. Whether it’s the cash-in expectations of twenty-first century matrimony or (hopefully) the thrill of actual wedlock, people behave as though it’s judgement day at weddings. And it’s that flirtation of permanence, that these two souls might spend their lives hopelessly grateful for one another, that keeps an honest-to-god magic to weddings.
Afternoon Birds of Arima encapsulates that do-or-die romanticism and, for that reason alone, shouldn’t be considered exclusive to ceremonial soundtracking. At the very worst, this curious release boasts that You Are My Symphonic might be the best wedding DJ ever. At its best, Afternoon Birds of Arima is an ambient must-listen; Kassie’s first post-classical outing which finds him at home with his production and his muse.

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