Yawning Man are considered legends within the Palm Desert Scene, you know, the one that spawned the likes of Kyuss, Earthlings, QOTSA and Fatso Jetson. Yawning Man formed in the mid-1980’s and didn’t release a record till 2005 with that year’s incredible Rock Formations, but there is a collection out there of their formative work titled The Birth Of Sol. I had the pleasure of seeing them at Rebellion in Deansgate, Manchester earlier in the year and was mesmerized by their instrumental cool Psych Desert Rock. If you wanted an idea of just how important they are, Brant Bjork, the coolest man in Rock has described them as the greatest band he’s ever seen. An endorsement from that guy is always worth taking note of.
Big Scenic Nowhere is a collaboration between Gary Arce and Bob Balch (Fu Manchu, Sun & Sail Club) and a whole host of musicians including Mario Lalli, Nick Oliveri, Tony Reed, Alain Johannes and Lisa Alley. I was fortunate to be sent a promo copy, especially as the album isn’t expected until 31st January 2020 and will be put out by the excellent Italian label Heavy Psych Sounds. As is usually the case with my reviews, artwork is always an important feature, which in this instance betrays a certain surreal Salvador Dali influence. The EP they released this year Dying On The Mountain also featured a Dali-esque cover.
There is quite the variety on this record, track 2 The Paranoid for example is an out and out Hardcore Punk number which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering the fact that Yawning Man started life playing tunes ala the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets and Fu Manchu have never hidden their Hardcore influences either (Bl’ast tribute tune Laserbl’ast). Then I Was Gone features Lisa Alley of The Well on vocals and is a wonderful collaboration with some grinding Psych Rock much like The Well put out. Mirror Image has an Ozzy vocal style to it, around the time of Ozzmosis, before slowing down with the lovely Pink Floyd goes Desert Rock vibes of Hidden Wall.
Ballads, Hardcore Punk, Metal, Psych and Desert Rock are put together in a stew producing an ultimately tasty result…
Shadows From The Altar is yet another top-notch collaboration with Lisa Alley and En Las Sombras is Yawning Man if they upped the heaviness, it is possibly the most Desert Rock sounding tune on the record. Last track The War Years sounds like a Sabbath ballad in the vein of She’s Gone, at least to my ears and it’s positively gorgeous, quite emotive and dare I say romantic (but not sappy or overwrought).
In comparison to your average Yawning Man record, the songs are a lot punchier, even when they do hit the 6-minute mark. There are Psychedelic flourishes, but these are cut short in order to progress into heavier territory and this is what has been the most surprising element of this record. Gary Arce has never been shy in expressing his distaste for Metal, calling it in one interview ‘soulless’ (not an opinion I share I hasten to add) so the very fact that there are some crunchy riffs bordering on Metallic has taken me back. Add to that the contributions of Per Wiberg of Candlemass and Thomas V. Jäger of Monolord who play in decidedly Doom Metal outfits and I’m amazed Arce even let them in the studio.
This is an intriguing record whose diversity is its strength, unlike say Metallica whose idea of musical experimentation was to go full redneck with the twin turkeys of Load and Reload. Ballads, Hardcore Punk, Metal, Psych and Desert Rock are put together in a stew producing an ultimately tasty result.
Scribed by: Reza Mills