Yowie – Damning With Faint Praise

Yowie achieved a measure of underground notoriety with “Cryptooology”, an album that turned rock conventions on their side, having more in common with the aesthetic of Stravinsky or Morton Feldman than Led Zeppelin. While certainly not a taste for everyone, Yowie had the uncanny ability to create the impression of chaos with meticulous precision and a firm- albeit subtle- structure of composition. On “Damning with Faint Praise”, Yowie follow up their cult classic debut with another half hour of sonic terror. Especially for reviewing’s sake, Yowie put me in a very interesting position. Depending on how a listener approaches the album, their brand of audio-calculus can come across as sonic heaven, or senseless rubbish. Although all music is subjective to an extent, “Damning with Faint Praise” gives an equal proportion of reasons both to love or hate it. Although their style takes a few listens to grow and become accustomed to, “Damning with Faint Praise” is one of the most innovative deconstructions of rock music I have heard, made less impressive only due its homogeneous approach. I may have wished for something more varied and dynamic than what is offered here, but as far as dissonant, challenging and twisted math/avant rock goes, Yowie can do no wrong.

Particularly upon first listen, a ton of comparisons raced through my head. The dissonant, jarring and distinctive styles of Captain Beefheart and death metal band Gorguts both came to mind. In truth, while there are plenty of bands that will come to mind here for any versed avant nerd, Yowie have forged their own niche. Developing upon the sound of “Cryptoology”, “Damning with Faint Praise” injects the style with greater precision and a more fitting production. For the most part however, the ingredients remain the same as they were eight years ago: furious, sporadic drumwork (I’ve read appropriate comparisons to Death Grips/Hella’s Zach Hill), clean-toned guitars playing ugly, dissonant chords, sketchy bass grooves, and a miasmatic, rushing sense of composition. Each of these elements offer a challenge to the listener on their own, and if these instrumental tracks were being heard separately, it might give the impression of listless improvisation. Yowie’s ingenuity occurs somewhere after the band throw all of their instruments and ideas into the mixing bowl. The style of composition is largely rhapsodic and barrages the listener with fresh ideas at a consistently furious pace. “Damning with Faint Praise” doesn’t even reach the half-hour mark, but rest assured that it takes several listens before the chaos starts making sense. Although first impressions are bound to leave many listeners scratching their heads, there is the growing sense as listens go by that the initially obnoxious noise is the product of much thought and deliberation. The band’s performance is kept raw and aggressive: I don’t think I’ve ever heard a clean guitar tone sound so angry!

Although there aren’t any moments here that are memorable on their own, Yowie leaves a strong hollistic impression. Although it’s certainly a challenging listen, “Damning with Faint Praise” is very consistent, both in terms of quality and its style. Although “I Could Care Less” opens with an uncharacteristic thirty second album break sparing percussion, Yowie use the same few elements throughout the album. Thanks in large part to the album’s brevity and intensely busy compositions, the style never feels exhausted, if only a bit fatigued. Although the single-sighted direction here is as impressive as anything I’ve heard in math rock, it would have been more impressive to hear Yowie take their creativity down different avenues. In truth, “Damning with Faint Praise” isn’t too much different from “Cryptooology”, and anyone who loved or hated the debut is bound to feel the same way this time around. It may be something of a one-trick pony, but that doesn’t negate the fact that- in terms of musicianship, composition, and style- Yowie are incredibly impressive. If you’re open to a more dissonant and twisted shade of rock music, “Damning with Faint Praise” is highly recommended.


1. Slowly but Surly
2. Whippersnapper
3. I Could Care Less
4. Shriners Sure Do Cuss A Lot
5. Eternally Collapsing Object

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