*From pointed pates hats fly into the blue / All winds resound as so with muffled cries. / Steeplejacks fall from roofs and break in two / And on the coasts—we read —flood waters rise.
The storm has come, the seas run wild and skip /Landwards to squash big jetties there /Most people have a cold, their noses drip / Trains tumble from the bridges everywhere.*
Jakob van Hoddis – End of the world
An expressionist poem from 1911 at the head of a press release in 2023? Did some ChatGPT make that up? Hardly. Jakob van Hoddis’ poetry moved YELKA guitarist Daniel Meteo a lot as a young person and came to mind during the recording of “Krieg & Ferien”, that briefly translates into “War & Ease”, the third YELKA album this year. And so the poem became the title for the ten-minute closing piece: an improvised one-take funk jam with an uncertain outcome.
YELKA’s new album may have so much in common with Tolstoy’s novel “War & Peace”, to which the album title quite obviously alludes, that it was created in a time in which we all – for well-known reasons – have to deal with Russian society more than we have in a long time. But the Berlin trio – besides Meteo it’s Christian Obermaier on drums and Yelka Wehmeier on bass and vocals – was more concerned with other questions in the reflection of pop music: Is this lived escapism (i.e. ease?) or subculture, i.e. is the fight against mainstream declared here (i.e. war)? Or does one only condition the other? Does subculture in the end also only offer ease from the mainstream? Or does it automatically become mainstream in case of success?
Of course, it remains appealing to read the title literally. Who doesn’t go on a well-deserved vacation this year, while in the background the latest tank deliveries to Ukraine are being processed? Who doesn’t know them, the vacation photos with burning forests in the background. Isn’t nature also in a kind of state of war right now?
YELKA, who actually only found each other as a band during the Corona pandemic, remain true to their “10 albums in 3 years” master plan against all odds. Sure, so do Volkswagen and the ECB: growth forever! But with YELKA we’re only talking about limited 300 vinyl editions for now.
As with the previous albums “Nowhere Jive” & “1976” the latest album was again recorded in Berlin Popschutz and the music was mixed and mastered by Norman Nietzsche. The cover drawing by Chriegl Farner is certainly the most striking motif of the YELKA albums released so far.
In general, one has the feeling that this trio has now really come together. “Can I use your name!? Can I use your dream?!”, YELKA are asking in the album opener, reminding of Au Pairs or SLITS with the stoic beat, the dub remix com-patible bassline and its no-wave guitars. Through various interlude wormholes we suddenly land in a post-kraut cover version of “Tausendmal Du” – originally by Münchener Freiheit! A song, however, that fits amazingly well into the YELKA repertoire between Chicago-Postrock, Ruhrpott-Kraut and Berlin electronic school.
But let’s return to Jakob Van Hoddis’ World’s End poem: Even today, literary scholars debate how humoristically the poem should be read, or to what extent van Hoddis has processed the fears of technical progress of the time in his eight lines. As far as the extreme weather situations in the summer vacations of 2023 are concerned, the text, more than 100 years later, seems rather prophetic . Worryingly prophetic.
Verdict: Yelka lays down some laid-back funky jams to get you in the groove. It’s a rather low-key, late-night affair with Yelka Wehmeier taking to vocals (Indie style) on several tracks in between lush instrumentals. All players are in the zone here, with the band creating a cool collection of compositions that slowly wind, creating an almost krautrock-style hypnotic progression. Deliciously immersive music that pulls you in, and as the rhythms build, it ain’t letting go.
Krieg & Ferien
Available Now @ https://yelka1.bandcamp.com/album/krieg-ferien