Michael Yonkers has a fascinating story: getting dropped by the majors, personal injury, and being rediscovered a generation later. That story has already been told in almost every review I’ve read, though. Instead, let’s talk about the rock. Period marks his third record with Minneapolis trio The Blind Shake, and the two forces offer a full collaboration when they get together: their work blends the buzzsaw guitar work of The Blind Shake with Yonkers’ penchant for noise and psychedelia on his homemade guitar. The musical kinship and the way the artists play together shows a mutual respect that has now led to multiple releases instead of just being a one-off project.
Period sees the group taking 2009’s Cold Town/Soft Zodiac split to new and more distinct levels. The Blind Shake’s trademark crunch is relatively absent on the record (rearing its head sporadically) and Yonkers’ signature spooky noise wins out. It’s a distinct balance, playing up the feedback and varied noises from his guitar while working against his booming, haunting voice. In many ways, The Blind Shake serve as his backing band.
The vocals are delivered at mid-tempo, but the songs vary from slow to fast—always angling off into something new and challenging in the midst. The feedback and noisier parts serve to complement the existing song structures instead of delving off into wankery. This often occurs in the final minute or so of the song, though it’s mixed up enough to avoid a formula. In “Carbo Hydro,” which may be the most “expected” sounding song on the record, Yonkers’ voice sounds a tad slow for the Blaha brothers’ guitars. However, it doesn’t serve the song poorly; rather, it gives a vulnerable tone to the brooding melody. The touch of warble in his voice plays well with to give a less gloomy, more pleading and human feel to the darker tones. “I Myself” is another song more akin to their previous body of work, pulling on a forceful, aggressive beat from The Blind Shake before things immediately slow down for “Oh I Know,” a minimal, quieter song that relies on Yonkers’ voice as its primary instrument over soft, repetitive guitars and lyrics. It sounds boring here in print, but the song stands out for its emotional pull and its placement on the record. Once again, the tides turn as it fades out and the title track, “Period,” kicks up the jam with two minutes of intro noise before the percussion and additional guitars drive up the volume knob into a angry burst that I want to see performed live.
Simply put, Period is everything that should be expected for followers of these collaborations so far. It is reminiscent of both bodies’ individual work, but it melds the two styles, showing a marked growth over their time working together. This record shows less aggression and more atmospheric tones, but the concise nature of Blind Shake songs holds up in the end, giving Yonkers’ wandering tone a bit of harbor.
7.5 / 10
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