It’s often rare to see a musician (or any artist for that matter) admit upfront and publicly (however tongue-in-cheek) that he’s hoping to make money off of his/her creative output. It’s less rare, though equally crazy, that a band could be like a religion (a la Lennon’s “Bigger Than Jesus”). This is all extremely rare, at least, in the indie world, without a righteous moral smiting. But Jona Bechtolt, aka the mastermind behind YACHT, has done just that. In his official Mission Statement, YACHT is “a Band, a Belief System and a Business conducted by Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans.” It’s clear that the whole mystic corporation idea is sarcastic and fun, but the fact is they’re selling the music. And, as far as I can tell, no one’s chastised Bechtolt for it yet. But, that’s probably just because YACHT’s produced albums like the new See Mystery Lights, which justifies some mystic and financial appreciation.
From the opening of the album, it’s clear that Bechtolt’s up to his old tricks. And I’m talking about all the way back to 2004, when Bechtolt was a member of The Blow, providing spacy, glitchy electronic beats for ex-Microphone Khaela Maricich to sing over. Opening track “Ring the Bell” is both spacey and glitchy, featuring polyrhythmic shakers and vocals that turn electronic and trill off into the ether. Plus, the song is essentially a sort of religious question, lyrically: “So I ask myself, and I ask you know, will we go to heaven or will we go to hell? It’s my understanding that neither one is real.” But, even for those anti-philosophers out there, the lyrics aren’t over-powering; it’s entirely possible to just dance along to the beat. That’s really the glorious middle-ground that Bechtolt and Evans have cultivated on the album: those in search of wordy, wacky lyrics can have their fill, while everyone else can scramble onto the dance floor.
And that middle-ground doesn’t end with the first track. Evans takes over lead vocals on “The Afterlife”. “We know how to make life go on!” she shout-sings, which, if it’s going to be your band’s Belief System or Mission Statement should gain you a few hopefully believers. While the drumbeat and guitar are pretty standard as far as Bechtolt’s typical backing tracks go, the hopscotch chant vocals and choral moans of the song’s title keep things just weird enough. “I’m In Love With a Ripper” has Evans doing her best T-Pain, auto-tuning her proclamations of love over crunchy synth drums and what sounds like someone barking.
But not everything’s all glittery and nice. “It’s Boring/You Can Live Wherever You Want” does get a bit dull. The blah-inducing techno beat and repetition of each half of the title is draining at the near-nine minute mark, two “separate” songs pushed together or not.
The excellent “Psychic City” saves the album though. I’m not sure of the origin of the clap-along drumbeat that’s compressed and distorted in the background, but it’s damn familiar. It falls away after a minute or so, replaced by a leaky faucet, tinny cymbal hits and Evans’ coolly, blithely droning on about a friend “having a party for you” or “baking a cake”. But the crusher is the final verse, in which Evans discusses finding love walking along on the street: “Where you been darling darling, we’ve been holding this moment for you” Evans croons over a jangly, “Float On”-esque guitar.
“We Have All We Ever Wanted” is equally fun, but significantly goofier. The tech-savvy Bechtolt takes the mic back. “Be careful with the downloading,” “read the comments,” and “protect yourself from digital decay” all sound so gleeful, silly and perfect shouted over the synthy, straight out of the ’80s dance beat.
Once again, this returns to the middle ground that Bechtolt and Evans have created. Much like former tour mates, LCD Soundsystem, YACHT is a project that allows for an insane amount of fun, a real strength in tongue-in-cheek witticisms and some outstanding dance beats.
See Mystery Lights