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Yuma Nora - Red Train Graphing the Sunset of All

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Artist: Yuma Nora

Album: Red Train Graphing the Sunset of All

Label: Deathbomb Arc

Review date: Feb. 9, 2005

Far too often, bands that play weird, wandering, misshapen music are immediately presumed/perceived to be improvising. When Animal Collective released Here Comes the Indian – a sprawling vista of inner wilderness, if ever there was one – nearly every single review expounded upon its astounding and unpredictable improvisational navigations. However, every actual interview with the band regarding this record found them baffled by such readings, as they each individually swore up and down that every song, every sound, was – in its own odd way – written, rehearsed and quite purposefully played. This interpretive rift may be attributed to the naiveté of non-musician journalists (doubtful), the murkiness of musical forms when masked by pedals and processors (dubious), or – bringing us, finally, to Yuma Nora – the inherently deceptive nature of scripted spontaneity (definitely). This latter matter is the front-and-center issue when evaluating the Portland, Oregon-based duo’s thriving electronic rainforest of a record, Red Train Graphing the Sunset of All.

Comprised of drummer Aaron Reyna and singer/noise processor Amy Vecchione (their mysterious moniker comes from an almost-anagram of these first names), Yuma Nora’s binary dynamic is dizzying, with his whirlwind percussion and her contorting electronic squalls shape-shifting, shrieking, shredding, spiking, then sliding into sibilance, silence. But to watch them perform live – Vecchione cloaked in her distinctive, silver spandex ski mask (a microphone lodged inside), Reyna long-armed and lording over a shimmering configuration of rides and crashes – or to delve into repeated listens, reveals Yuma Nora to be much less a band of chance than simply one whose instrumentation is, itself, intrinsically improvisational.

Atmospheric drum cascades, muddy analog electronics, and alternately wailed/whispered singing are each individually messy tools to work with, so it’s not surprising that synthesizing these elements makes for some stormy weather. “Like Never Before” ebbs and flows malarial tempests of noise over the repeated vocal refrain, and “Pussy Pussy Pussycat” flash-floods torrents of warbling squeals and snare attacks into the charged spaces of otherwise tribal calm. At times Yuma Nora allow themselves to bask in a synchronous (if wobbly) groove, especially on “Goin For It” and “Fall O Never,” where Vecchione’s buzzing tropical bird calls act as bouncy bass lines for Reyna’s languid rhythms.

But their energy is an intensely restless one, and before long they invariably dive back into the thick jungle din of heat, tumult, frenzy, freedom. Which is understandable, because even though Red Train is a powerful exercise in controlled chaos and deliberate delirium, their natural habitat ultimately seems to be that of bristling, untamed sound.

By Britt Brown

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