Yo La Tengo We Have Amnesia Sometimes ( Review )

The New Jersey trio’s today's consists of five formless, comforting drones, recorded with a single microphone positioned in the middle of their Hoboken exercise space.

“We didn’t really set out to make a soothing, enjoyable album for sleep time.” That’s Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew reflecting on the process at the back of their 2018 album There’s a Riot Going On. Intentional or not, it was likely the band’s most consistently tranquil LP in 15 years— even its charged-up tune sounded like it was producing electricity for fairy lights. The New Jersey trio regularly cope with life’s harder moments via turning down and turning inward—it’s a huge section of what makes them so meaningful to so many. McNew would possibly have also been a bit frazzled from having to analyze a new software interface to engineer the layered, loop-dense album; remembering what the multi-track to “Above the Sound” appeared like, he said, was ample to make him dizzy.

He won’t have that problem when he thinks again on We Have Amnesia Sometimes, which was recorded with a single microphone positioned in the middle of the band’s Hoboken exercise space. As Ira Kaplan explains, in late April, “with the outside world weighing on everybody,” the band figured out how to safely convene and resume “playing formlessly.” This is how many of their songs have begun over the years, however here, they’ve released the uncooked material. It’s new territory for them: The key difference between these 5 gentle drones and the band’s ample film-scoring or ambient-leaning work, technically speaking, is that those portions almost continually had some lead melody or some syncopated rhythm, however subtle. Here, there are suggestions of the former on the third and fourth tracks, and the fourth does have the latter, however otherwise, nobody steps out in the front or distinguishes themselves clearly.

And that is, generally speaking, the lovely part of this project. What higher time to submit to an exercising in committee and unity than now, when we are pretty literally as distanced as ever? On We Have Amnesia Sometimes, Kaplan, McNew, and Georgia Hubley combo into each different and seem to structure one big animal. On “James and Ira exhibit mysticism and some confusion holds (Monday),” the three wade into a shimmering pond of synths and ponder their reflections. On “Georgia thinks it is probably k (Tuesday),” a storm of feedback rolls in, and via the end there’s a far-off pulse, like a washing machine. “Ira searches for the slide, sort of (Friday)” meditates round what sounds like the same organ from “Sudden Organ,” and the mild ticking of some down-strumming that the mic picks up will become its percussion track.

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