On Shuffle: Yaws – Stoicism in E5 [cassette single]

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(Detonic, 2015)

If there’s one thing Detonic Recordings is good at, it’s identifying post punk outliers, the artists on the periphery who have a few great songs lying around but can’t quite find the outlet. The label’s only got a few releases under its belt, but they’re good ones, and by bands you’ve never heard of (which is on you, because you should have): School Damage, Diesel Dudes, Multiple Man, Moist (not that one). Now, add one more to the list – Stoicism in E5 by Yaws, moniker of Brisbane-via-London’s Dom Stephens.

Following in the label’s footsteps, Yaws barrels through three synth-punk tracks on this cassette release, all of them studies in the genre, and each an exciting, dank grind through urban nihilism. The landscapes Stephens conjures are bleak, the vibe gray, and the accompanying synths and beats seethe with barely contained disillusion. Imagine the streets of indie-suicide game Tonight You Die – empty, gray, no sign of life, periodic streetlamps casting shadows hiding the lurking beasts that live only in your mind. Make your way to the top of one of the buildings and jump off – it feels right while listening to Yaws.

Oh, wait, you think this thing’s gloomy? No, actually, it’s not – not in the slightest. It’s cathartic, for people who maybe experience this stuff and have to bang their head about it in some way. See, Stephens makes this whole black vibe fun, even dancy! You can wiggle like a crazy person to the Wax Trax! marathon of “UP,” even if you never lived in Chicago in the 1980s. “Flesh War” is a reworking of a Total Control song, and Total Control is pretty super great in my book. (Typical System is an awesome album.) It’s also as close to pop as Yaws gets, sounding like a Joy Division/Magnetic Fields mashup. That’s a good mashup. And “Regression” is another angsty dancefloor workout, complete with otherworldly hellish tones (vocals?), a fitting end to Stoicism.

This isn’t long – just fifteen minutes – and each second counts. You can listen to it in the time it takes you to get to work. If you have a half hour commute, you can listen to it twice. An hour commute? That’s four spins of this thing! You see where I’m going. It’s simple mathematics – you listen to it, you like it, you listen to it again. I’m inclined to right now, because I sure needed a good dose of the ol’ post punk spirit this morning. Coffee’s just not doing it on its own.

RIYL: Suicide, Total Control, Multiple Man, Joy Division


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