Thanks again, Google Translate, for helping me out on another Yadayn album title. This time, “Pendel” is German for “pendulum,” and yeah, it makes a lot of sense here. The device’s constancy in movement and unwavering physical motion mirror Yadayn’s impeccable acoustic guitar playing and composition, providing an apt metaphor that retains it’s appropriateness as Pendel progresses. I grew up about an hour from Philadelphia, so we’d often go to the Franklin Institute when we were kids, and one of my most vivid memories is of the Foucault pendulum hanging from an 85-foot wire down the atrium of the Pendulum Staircase. You could stand at the top and be mesmerized by that thing for a long time.
I can be mesmerized by Yadayn for a long time too. I wrote about his 2014 release Vloed (Navalorama), a, you guessed it, flood of acoustic brilliance that was as overwhelming as it was understated. “Yadayn” means “two hands,” in this case those of Ghent-based musician Gowaart van den Bossche (also of Zura Zaj), and, so says I, he “couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate stage name for his talents, which include manhandling an acoustic guitar in the most imaginative and heartbreaking ways.” That’s still true, he still does that. But here on Pendel, his new release for French label Eilean Rec., he expands his palette a little bit more, while retaining the consistency of his workmanlike approach. He’s not just a Fahey disciple this time out, but he also hasn’t given up that hero worship either.
The division of old Yadayn/new Yadayn is felt almost immediately. After the pretty acoustic warmup of “In,” “Veld” (Dutch for “Field”) moves deliberately at the pace of a lengthy folk workout, gentle fingerpicking belying dramatic tension, with periods of heavier strumming for effect. Vocal samples peek through, old recordings of a man speaking, and finally Yadayn builds up to a crescendo wherein an electric guitar provides additional accompaniment, lending melodic counterpoint and emotive weight. The song’s progression – and its length, at 6:37 – feels almost post rock in structure, like Explosions in the Sky unplugged or something. It’s a nice move for Yadayn, as it really feels like he’s telling wordless stories with his guitar, and your job as the listener is to fill in the details. Try it yourself – start with “Spiegel” (“Mirror”), a rainy dirge, and see where the story you impose on it takes you. I’m somewhere in northern New England, on the coast. I imagine the coast of the North Sea is similar.
Yadayn has added droning ambient elements to some of his songs as well, and they add a new electroacoustic-type flavor to the playing, a welcome detour. “Bries” (“Breeze”) is all organ drone until a simple guitar line enters almost halfway in, a wisp of tune to ease the organ through to the end. “Ruis” (“Noise”) is a bit of cut-up and pasted artistry, like Paul de Jong if he performed on guitar rather than cello. “Deur” (“Door”) combines ambient drone and guitar, and even adds some percussive elements.
These are nice things, and are worthwhile alone, but you’re coming to a Yadayn release for the fractured folk pinings, aren’t you? You will not be disappointed, as the aforementioned “Veld” and “Spiegel,” along with gorgeous entries like “Pendel” and “Rust,” are masterpieces of fingerpicked guitar, and continue Gowaart’s tradition. The recording sounds even better than it did on Vloed, which sometimes sounded like it was recorded to four-track, which actually gave it a sense of lived-in rusticity and charm rather than hindered it. Regardless, Pendel is another triumph for Yadayn, and Eilean Rec. Too bad its limited edition of ninety has already sold out – the MP3s are still there though!
RIYL: John Fahey, (instrumental) Nick Drake, Paul de Jong, Rachel’s