Review special: Yowie – Cryptooology (2004)


Yowie offer me an interesting opportunity, as a listener and critic alike. While most artists and albums will tend to strike me one way or the other, these math rock partisans have concocted something that continues to leave me baffled. First impressions and conventional music standards might deem the dissonant, unfurnished sound repulsive, but upon closer inspection, there’s a brilliance and calculation to Yowie that may elude all but the more persistent listeners. With that in mind, for all of the praise I may give Yowie and “Cryptooology”, any recommendation should come with a warning: this is not a musical taste for the faint of heart or easily unimpressed. Love or hatred of their perpetual dissonance and chaotic form regardless, there is method and meticulous thought behind this breakdown of rock tradition, and that alone should make it a worthy venture for the more adventurous listeners out there.

If some of the other things written about it in the past are any indicator, “Cryptooology” has become something of a bogeyman in the rock underground, with many of the album’s greatest supporters still openly admitting to the challenge the music presents. More impressive still is that Yowie have been able to spark this controversy with nothing more than the accepted ‘minimum’ for rock music: two guitars and a drumkit. There’s not a single audible effect or particularly colourful guitar tone used here; the drums and clean electric twang sound as if the instruments have been spared a moment’s tweaking or embellishment. Many musicians would never seek to ascend to such heights of strangeness without a hint of effects, and it’s that deviation from the norm that partly earns Yowie such uniqueness to their sound and style.


Of course, the hard part comes with describing Yowie’s approach to composition itself, which does not lend itself too well to traditional analysis. Although there is a noted repetition of some ideas, the flood of dissonant chords, furiously calculated drum bursts and creeping harmonics tends to flow at a similar pace throughout the album, robbing the tracks of any perceivable uniqueness from one another. Most of the time, one guitar will provide a barrage of ugly chords while the other adds a more varied sense of twang and eerie sonic experimentation, the likes of which I might only liken to the way rain might sound hitting a windowpane in the middle of a chthonic nightmare. At the end of the day, Defenestrator’s drumwork is left to hold it all together. While the constantly shifting rhythmic pattern seems to lay down a framework for the other instruments to explore at will, even the drums are immensely unforgiving to the inattentive listener. There are times here when the drums sound like they’re presenting a warped rendition of jazz, and others where the calculated oppression reminds me of death metal.

Somewhat contrary to the greater focus of its successor “Damning With Faint Praise”, “Cryptooology” finds Yowie at a time where they may be too chaotic for their own good. I’ll take a good musical challenge any day over something tried and true, but this album doesn’t get much easier with experience. In spite of the evident precision and predetermined nature of this supposed chaos, it’s difficult to pick out any idea on its own. “Cryptooology” flows as one a single primordial entity, swirling and consuming all in its path. While it’s bound to leave a strong first impression (whether it’s a good or bad impression is up to the listener) but the album sorely feels the lack of dynamic. Even the most challenging outsider art should offer some respite along the way; otherwise, listeners become desensitized somewhere along the way. Yowie’s style is plainly weird and challenging enough to keep a listener engaged far longer than its brief half-hour spin, but I can’t help but feel that the album might have benefitted from a respite somewhere along the way. Past that, it’s up for each individual listener to decide for themselves. One thing’s for certain, however: do not expect to be underwhelmed.


1. Trina (2:43)
2. Tamika (2:38)
3. Tara (6:21)
4. Tenesha (3:25)
5. Toni (4:57)
6. Towanda (4:23)
7. Talisha (5:29)


* Jeremiah Wontsewitz – guitar
* Jimbo – guitar
* Defenestrator – drums

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