YLANGYLANG “Life Without Structure” (Crash Symbols)

Structure is an overrated concept if you ask me. Heck, ask anyone – including Catherine Debard, mastermind behind the YlangYlang moniker. Why would you listen to her instead of just me? Is there something less than credible about my opinion that you’d look to somebody else for confirmation? Oh wait – is it because Debard has just released a shiny new cassette tape on that very subject? Ah, I see – that’s it. I don’t have to feel so bad when there’s someone better suited at conveying that message, especially with such intense nuance through the potentially abstract conduits of sound and vision. I’ve just got these words. They’re wicked clumsy.

You take the abstract with the concrete, though: one informs the other, everyone’s happy in the end. Debard’s attention to melody, while setting it adrift in a sea of at-times formless mood, is the key grounding point to Life Without Structure, an anchor holding the listener in place as the sea of tone shifts around them. The cover of the tape itself grapples with this dichotomy – an unroofed bathroom, disconnected from any permanent house structure, seemingly sits on a table with clouds and geometric, mineral-like shapes. Three 3-inch floppy disks rest next to it. A telephone cord attached to the receiver is plugged (unseen) into the bathroom. A hand holds the telephone against a purple and white patterned backdrop. Examining these things on their own doesn’t mean anything. Combine them and a strange sense develops, a feeling, a personal response that differs from viewer to viewer.

And listener to listener. “Uncertain Landscapes” drops us right in to YlangYlang’s lavender world (“Lavender Wow” is two tracks later), buoying us along on pulsing rhythms and twinkling production while Debard’s voice floats ethereal through the mist. It’s as “structured” as Life Without Structure gets, as it and follow-up “And Do I Feel Ajar Somehow” (great title) embrace the crispness of pop and combine it with the encroaching “dream” state that “Lavender Wow” and the eleven-minute “The Way Shadows Play” delve into without abandon. You get engulfed in those two, for a long time, until you start to lose sense of your being and even your body itself, its structural connections disengaging from one another at a molecular level.

But oh, YlangYlang reels it back in – gives it “structure”? no – with “How Thin Is the Skin of Your Soul,” a comedown jam from the comedown tape, a last injection of philosophy, of esoteric liminality before incorporation, of oneself with oneself. A fitting end, then, to a cycle replete with the joys of the uncarnate, where structure dissolves into abstraction, although dimly discernible in the haze. Take yourself there, and see how you feel about it on the other side. Where will your mind and body go?

Crash Symbols

--Ryan Masteller