Bearded Youth Quest is a band from Brighton who has released one of the brightest albums of the year with “Yatta!”, and I mean that in more ways than one. It’s compositionally bright, as in clever, and it’s stylistically as bright as a Kamehameha (see: Dragon Ball Z) made out of pure joyous energy. This record is an exhilarating whirlwind of notes and rhythmic patterns, so chipper and lighthearted that it’s pretty much impossible to dissociate from a very colorful video-game and anime culture, especially given its Japanese name, which is an exclamation of triumph one can hear very often in more carefree animes. I’ll get into this stylistic aspect more in a bit, but first let’s discuss the music itself.
RELEASE DATE: 25 August 2015 LABEL: Lonely Voyage Records
“Yatta!” is utterly refreshing as a whole, a sonic shower if you will, comfortable and healthy. Sure, it’s math-rock, but it never allows itself to become exhausting, overly complex, repetitive or relentless. Bearded Youth Quest are using this album to yell loud and clear that they have no pretention or preconceptions when it comes to what exactly “math-rock” should sound like. No need for theatrics, showing off, or validate decades spent studying music theory. Instead, you get bouncy, surprising, generous, sunny tracks which stick to the point and rely on hooks and riffs as much as the next rocking genre, while showcasing playfulness and intelligence to such a degree that they become contagious, somewhat like a fun and sunny vaccine.
Compositionally, the music comes across as peppered with little hints and nods towards Nintendocore, and some songs genuinely remind me of level music for childhood platformers. However, this is not a question of quality or annoying repetitiveness, but rather of precision, pacing and genuinely epic synchronization between the instruments and voicings. Sure, it’s the nature of the music to feel a bit repetitive and mechanical, but Bearded Youth Quest are being very nice about it, cutting a lot of the aggression associated with the genre and replacing it with distilled “joie de vivre”. The meld between the geometry of tracks such as “`Sports Bread” and “Banana Flip Flop” and their uncanny melodic hooks and electrifying riffs is just overwhelming, and it just makes you want to scream “Yatta!” yourself, as though having somehow achieved a great success just by letting the music wash over you. It’s rare I come across a band which offers music so tightly knit, so much like clockwork, while being able to generate its own mood rather than requiring the listener to go into a certain mindset from the beginning. Not to mention that the mood it generates is so ridiculously bubbly that it actually triggers mild synesthesia as far as I’m concerned – all I see is a flurry of colored neon lights while listening to this album, and I don’t think I’m the only one susceptible to this effect.
While juggling this carnival of patterns, Bearded Youth Quest manages to work on the dynamics of each song very competently, offering a fair amount of variation in their pacing and overall construction. Sometimes the shifts in pace are so radical that one can actually get that sinking feeling in their stomach similar to when a lift starts moving, or when an airplane takes off. The music seems to zoom out of itself so quickly and decisively that the effect is akin to suddenly losing balance for no apparent reason. It’s quite a fascinating experience and all I can think is “Can I go again?!” – much like a giddy child.
In apparent contrast of this flurry of playful energy, I think the band (or the folks at their record label, I’m not sure, I don’t have a physical copy with the benefit of extensive liner notes) really knows what they’re doing when it comes to promoting this album and enhancing the mood visually. The record cover can pretty much function as a mirror of your own face once you click with this music, and the transparent pink vinyl release is just too adorable and works beautifully as a “flesh-and-blood” support for the album. I think this might be my favorite album presentation of the year, so meticulously is it attuned to the music itself. It makes “Yatta!” worth checking out for this aspect alone.
Overall, “Yatta!” is one of the most charming albums I’ve heard this year, and a wonderful soundtrack for “gamifying” your life and/or daily routine. Wholeheartedly recommended! Favorite track: “Sports Bread”.