Album of the week: Olden Yolk – Living Theatre

Taking their name from the writings of late 19th century to early 20th century Buddhist Monk Manathera Ladi Sayadaw, it’s no surprise that the mood board for Olden Yolk’s ‘Living Theatre‘ largely comes from centuries gone by. Their music is ornate, reminiscent of the tiled floors of Marrakesh and the intricate designs that sprawl over them. The New York duo describe their music as “plays between architecture, nature, and the human gestures which occupy those spaces.” It’s truly timeless, possessing the staying power of a listed building.

However, these influences are widespread, and that aptitude for diversity plays out on ‘Living Theatre’. The preceding three singles were a good inclination for this; lead single ‘Cotton and Cane’ was a straight-up slice of dreampop, follow up ‘Distant Episode’ was an earthy, whirring ballad, while final single ‘Grand Palais’ gives into their fuzzier, psych-rock tendencies. The album might see the band navigate through numerous genres, but the songs themselves bow to subtler changes, like waves that just make it over your feet rather than ones that consume you whole.

Instrumentals segue in and out on ‘Living Theatre.’ ‘Meadowlands’ could soundtrack the daily rituals of a medieval village, while closer ‘Angelino High‘ acts like a cover you throw over yourself before sleep takes you. The aforementioned ‘Distant Episode’ is the album’s standout. Caity Shaffer produces her strongest vocal here over just a plodding bass, breathy synths and a whirring, scrawling violin. Fawning and vulnerable, it’s a song you can’t help but become infatuated with immediately.

It might sound nicey-nicey so far, but sharper edges reside in the shadows, usually in the form of fraught Cate Le Bon-like guitars or the squawks of a discordant sax, namely at the end of ‘Violent Days.’ For this album, the duo retreated to a space with no windows, making the entire thing within their planned period of three months. What resulted is an intoxicating, meandering trip that leaves you thirsty for more. With two albums in two years, you may not be waiting long.

Living Theatre is out now on Trouble In Mind

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