YAK (REVIEW)

London noise trio Yak wreak a trail of violent destruction of the loudest kind wherever they go, so as their tour for debut album Alas Salvation stopped off at the legendary Joiners, the chaos that ensued was off the scale. It’s rare to start a gig review with how it ended, but here we go: noise billowed from the trio’s equipment as they were far from the stage, the drum kit with its ‘YAK’ skin lay in tatters, with cymbals all over the stage, and the guitar of lead singer Oli Burslem was being held up to the amp stack by an overexcited fan. It was, undoubtedly chaos.
But to kick things off, a few hours previous to the destructive force of Hurricane Yak, The V2s took to the stage at around 8:00, and armed with some glitter-wash rock ‘n’ roll, they meandered through a set of scratchy garage rock nuggets, which started off kinda mediocre, before picking up and up throughout the set, ending in a string of fuzzy Kinks-esque bangers.
The band Palm Honey, a Reading based band that make beach-ready cosmic pop came next, setting the stage for the catharsis that would ensue with Yak. Through the use of this brilliant synth, that squealed and howled, as well as gave Palm Honey’s songs a slightly spacey feel, their set went from strength to strength. They started off with some pretty nice fuzz-feedback pop songs, before they finished with a colossus of an 8 minute krautrock jam, that stylistically jumped erratically from garage to Stone Roses-style indie to full on noisy psychedelia – great musicianship, a great sound, and a great amount of noise made Palm Honey a near perfect support band.
Thing is though, Palm Honey are one of my favourite upcoming southern bands, but they were paled and rendered an insignificant pawn in the night the second that noise started to emanate from the power trio that is Yak. The London three piece, although 2/3 of them were dressed in unsuspecting shirts and trousers, oozed a real awe of sadistic danger, even from their brief pre-set soundcheck.
Yak’s entrance was every bit whack as what would follow. The fuzzed-out, instantly recognisable bass of recent single Harbour The Feeling was the first thing you heard. Bassist Andy Jones hammered through it over and over again, whilst drummer Elliot Rawson picked up the pace with the sticks; this bass and drum jam continued hard for a couple of minutes, before frontman Oli Burslem – who’d been fiddling with his homemade red guitar pedals – barked a “1-2-3-4” and the band launched into a raucous eruption of noise that only vaguely resembled the Harbour The Feeling single.
The first part of Yak’s set saw them belt through some incredibly noisy versions of album tracks from Alas Salvation. Within the second track the band played, single Hungry Heart, Burslem was crowdsurfing as his guitar screamed and howled, the crowd already transfixed enough by Yak to happily lift the frontman into the air. “We don’t normally really play to people,” said Burlsem between songs, “so thank you. You can show attitude or gratitude at times like this and I’ve gone for the latter.”
Oli Burslem’s presence as an out and out rockstar was the main factor in making Yak’s set feel alive, and dangerous. With his kinda Alex DeLarge-come-Mick Jagger vibe, Burslem took centre stage, creating massive amounts of noise through the whole set and contorting the structure of his songs like mad scientist. Tracks like Smile and Plastic People were intersected with the colossal riff from the Alas Salvation title track, whilst during Use Somebody, the band launched into a killer 5 minute long version of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, before returning to their own song’s final, incessant chorus.
A bass guitar and a couple of cymbals swiftly became casualties as the band’s set got more and more chaotic by the second; where their set started with singles from the record, Yak’s set got dizzyingly psychedelic towards the end, as an extra dark version of spaghetti western B-side Out On A Limb escalated to a full on earth shattering noise jam, complete with occasional smatterings of the Alas Salvation riff.
As the band hammered through the closing duo of non-album singles of No and Plastic People, the band’s set reached its peak intensity – fans on the stage, squalls of feedback billowing out atop the satanic rock and roll of the London band and Burslem’s vocals reaching the point of being Iggy Pop-like howls. The last two songs were out and out brilliant rock ‘n’ roll, hammered out with such a mesmerising ferocity that if you were ever cynical about the state of guitar based rock and roll in the year 2016, Yak could singlehandedly reinstate your faith.
The close to the set, that saw Burslem putting his guitar on an unsuspecting fan and twiddling with the pedalboard so that white noise gushed out, was quite frankly batshit, and well, if Yak needed to prove anything, they did so with the absolute chaos that was their hourlong conquest of the sweaty Joiners stage. Yak are the maddest, most unhinged live band in the UK today, as well as one of the most capable, and this deafening, crowdsurfing, swashbuckling ultra-violent gig proved it.


Calum Cashin